February is Black History Month (BHM), an annual observance celebrating the Black community in all its brilliance, beauty, and accomplishments. This BHM, we at Planned Parenthood want to pay special tribute to the incredible work Black women have done as leaders of the movements for social justice and reproductive rights.
In fact, the very concept of reproductive justice was created by a group of Black women; in 1994, these activists began to push the conversation forward by calling attention to the racial, economic, social, and political intersections of reproductive rights. As they rightfully pointed out, true reproductive justice isn’t just about the right to an abortion: it’s about the right to make one’s own family planning decisions, including the right to raise a child in a safe, healthy community. Organizations led by Black women such as In Our Own Voice,Sister Song, Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and National Birth Equity Collaborative continue the fight for reproductive justice today.
During BHM and all year long, Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York is committed to supporting and uplifting the Black community and in particular, standing with Black women. This involves fighting for universal access to reproductive health care, demanding the health care system be more equitable and inclusive, and acknowledging that the world of reproductive health care is often a very fraught space for Black women and birthing people.
There is, of course, the shameful history of eugenics in the United States – which is also a part of PP founder Margaret Sanger’s complicated legacy – along with many contemporaneous struggles. The maternal mortality rate among Black women is 40 deaths per 100,000 live births, more than three times the mortality rate among white women. A study found Black mothers are twice as likely to experience severe complications during childbirth compared to their white counterparts. Black women generally have less access to care and, when they do receive it, are often forced to contend with microaggressions or physicians who don’t take their concerns seriously.
We want to reiterate that a core tenet of Planned Parenthood’s mission is providing equitable, inclusive health care to anyone who seeks it. As such, honoring, standing with, and listening to the Black community – Black women in particular – is our priority this month and every month.
Some Ways to Observe Black History Month
Support Black-owned businesses
Learn about noteworthy Black figures and their contributions
Donate to charities that support anti-racism equity and equality