BY CARRIE MAXELL
On Sept. 23the day that portions of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act went into effectBlack Women for Reproductive Justice organized a press conference at the ACLU headquarters on Michigan Avenue along with Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and their allies in education and faith-based communities.
They gathered together to demand that Alveda King, Dr. King's niece who was visiting Illinois at the time, stop using her uncle's historic civil-rights legacy to target African-American women's bodies and promote an anti-gay agenda. The speakers included: Toni M. Bond Leonard, president/CEO, Black Women for Reproductive Justice; Gaylon Alcaraz, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund; Joanne Howard, former board chair at Planned Parenthood of Illinois and Kim L. Hunt, executive director of Affinity Community Services. Leslie Watson Malachi, director of African American Religious Affairs for People for the American Way, was unable to be at the press conference but she did release a statement in support of the coalitions' efforts.
Leonard remarked that "Black women have desired to control their fertility and the spacing of their families since our ancestors were brought to these shores as slaves." She also denounced the use of billboards in poorer Black communities that have the slogan "Black Children are an Endangered Species" to sway African-American women from using family planning or having an abortion when necessary. Leonard also said that her organization has signed onto a national partnership of Black women leaders and organizations in support of reproductive justice under the umbrella of Trust Black Women. They will be using this umbrella organization to get the message out to all corners of the United States in the coming months.
Dorothy Roberts, a professor and writer, took to the podium and said, "Black women's advocacy has transformed the reproductive rights movement into a movement for reproductive justice by linking reproductive freedom to social justice." Roberts finished her statement by saying that " [ t ] his assault on black women turns attention away from the true enemy of black children: racism, sexism, and economic inequality in this country."
Alcaraz said that anti-choice groups are in the business of raising money and "selling women of color down the river." Alcaraz also stated that "Alveda King's position is equally disturbing. She does not speak for all Black women. She should be ashamed of herself in trying to capitalize off of the history of her uncle and make a name for herself at the expense of others."
Howard said that Alveda King was spreading lies about what Planned Parenthood does, which is to reduce the amount of unintended pregnancies for all women. Howard went on to say, "Unlike Alveda King, Planned Parenthood trusts women to make private, personal medical decisions based on what she understands to be best for herself and her family."
Lastly, Hunt added her support to a women's right to choose as well as expand the definition of family. Hunt said that she is often asked "Why are lesbian, bisexual and trans women interested in reproductive justice?" Her response is, "We are women, too, and therefore anything that affects the broader community of women and women of color in particular, absolutely affects us. We have children and want to ensure that our daughters and sons have the ability to control their reproductive and sexual autonomy and their gender expression."
After the women made their statements they took questions from the audience. One thing that resulted from the questions was a commitment to remain strong in the face of people such as Alveda King and the Rev. James Meeks, a state senator and possible mayoral candidate who has been critical of the LGBT community. A few of the speakers responded that there is a need to have comprehensive sex education for young girls and boys. The press conference ended with the speakers pledging to work together so that all women would have access to medically accurate information and reproductive choice.