Historically Black women have been denied control over their bodies. The American slave trade denied black women their dignity, right to fall in love, choose a mate and worse, were denied their children. Raped and forced to cohabitate with the slave master black women were seen as nothing more than a reproductive birthing machine to breed more slaves. Then there was the disproportionate sterilization of African Americans between the mid 1960s and 1980s. We were also depicted as lazy welfare queens birthing children that we could not afford.
Civil Rights activist Angela Davis has always been an advocate for women’s rights and she spoke against the aggressive sterilizations. She has always been pro-choice. She said “No march, movement or agenda that defines manhood in the narrowest terms and seeks to make women lesser partners in this quest for equality can be considered a positive step.” Question, has the government ever stepped in to deny men the right to a vasectomy? Or do they discuss the discontinuance of condoms? Why do health insurance companies cover Viagra? Think about it.
Pro Choice is not about abortion but rather about women being accepted as adults, as equal citizens in America under the Constitution. Women have the right same as men to determine whether or not they want to reproduce or not, plain and simple. Women do not need the Pope or the U.S. government to determine her right to have or not have children.
In “Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice” authors Jael Silliman, Marlene Gerber Fried, Loretta Ross and Elena Gutierrez, list a series of case studies, all which demonstrate how minority women have fought for reproductive justice.
With the historical battles that women, especially Black women have experienced, it’s no surprise to many that even in 2014, women are still fighting for what they call justice. Today, women from all backgrounds across the country are still being denied an important right. Women always deserve a choice, especially when it relates to health, Rep. Mary E. Flowers (D-IL 31) said. She supports the non-binding referendum question Chicago voters will be asked on Nov., 4 about whether or not all health insurance policies should cover birth control and contraception.
“Birth control pills can save women’s lives because some of them should not get pregnant again because of health issues or they can’t afford another pregnancy,” Flowers said.
The Guttmacher Institute publishes research on reproductive health and according to the institute, 99 percent of sexually experienced women between the ages of 15 and 44 have used a contraceptive method during some point in their life. Those who use the pill, typically do so to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, but more than half use it for the health benefits like menstrual pain and acne.
This issue on women’s choice gained national attention after Hobby Lobby, a crafts’ retail store, refused to include birth control to employees under its health benefits. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers are required to provide access to contraception. They can’t charge a co-pay and all forms should be covered. The national chain wasn’t okay with that so the owners defended their stance in court. They ended up taking their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that companies can avoid the law if they claim a religious exemption. Those businesses would have to meet certain guidelines to be considered.
Coco Jervis, a spokeswoman for The National Women’s Health Network, said the organization believes that women should have access to all forms of contraceptives. This will empower them to make what she calls, “the best medical choices for their bodies.”
“We believe that all health insurance policies should fully cover birth control and contraceptives without co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles as per the mandate of the Affordable Care Act,” she said in an email.
“The National Women’s Health Network further believes that access to contraception is a basic human right that is critical for millions of women in America seeking preventative healthcare and wellness, economic opportunity, employment, equity and justice,” Jervis said.
Like other cities across the country, Chicago organizations and residents have protested against this issue; many saying that women should be covered. Planned Parenthood members supported Gov. Pat Quinn when he signed the Birth Control Advisory Referendum this past summer.
In a statement, the Planned Parenthood said that contraception is a “basic healthcare right” and that no company or employer should restrict a woman from receiving insurance coverage.
“[This referendum] is a call to action for all citizens of Illinois to vote “Yes” and fight back the attacks on women and their reproductive rights,” the statement said.
Carole Brite, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action said, “Illinoisans need to make sure that politicians know that women need access to affordable birth control no matter where they live, who they work for, or how much money they make.”
Many African American elected officials have taken a side in the debate. Flowers said that when Viagra first became popular, insurance companies quickly covered it. She said women should not have to pay for contraception and birth control pills.
“I am a supporter of it being accessible and affordable for all women,” she said.
Flowers isn’t alone. State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D16) shares her belief. Collins said she supports the women’s health referendum and women’s access to health care.
“Recently, a disturbing pattern has emerged, tilting the balance of power even farther toward corporations and away from working women, as court rulings expand the power employers may exert over even the most personal aspects of their employees’ lives,” Collins said in an email. “I strongly oppose giving employers discretion over decisions every woman has the right to make for herself, in consultation with her doctor, her family and her own conscience.”
And Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL 2 ) agrees with both Flowers and Collins. She said that birth control should not be looked at any differently from other medications prescribed by a doctor. “All patients, regardless of gender, should have equal prescription drug coverage under their insurance plans,” she said.
This important referendum question will be on the Nov., 4 ballot, along with other referenda like a minimum wage increase and amending the Illinois Constitution to protect voter’s rights. Let this be a reminder to stand up for your rights and vote.