Reproductive Justice Resources from a Staten Island Organizer
Shantrice King Shares the Often Untold History of Reproductive Justice in the United States
The whitewashed narrative of the reproductive rights movement is what led SisterSong to coin the term “reproductive justice.” SisterSong defines reproductive justice as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe, sustainable communities.”
Though the term was coined in 1994, the concept of reproductive justice was personified long before. Since colonizers set up shop on the land now known as the United States, bodily autonomy has not been afforded to Black, Brown and indigenous women. It's important to highlight the often untold history of reproductive justice in the United States, and even more important to give credit where it often goes ungiven; to the Black, Brown, and indigenous women and people who have been fighting this fight long before the women’s rights movement began in 1848 (a movement that often deliberately excluded Black and indigenous women).
A Planned Parenthood of New York City organizer with a focus on Staten Island communities, Shantrice King is an activist for Black maternal health and reproductive justice. She has compiled a list of resources and events from the reproductive justice movement—events that are often lost in the shuffle of a white, heteronormative lens that history is told through.
Enslaved African Women’s Resistance: During the 16th to 19th centuries enslavement of people of African descent, enslaved women passed down knowledge to one another about abortions, as well as other reproductive and sexual health information. This oral transfer of knowledge enabled enslaved women to avoid sexual predators and control certain aspects of their reproductive lives.
Case of Loretta Ross: Loretta Ross is a legendary reproductive justice activist. At age 23, Ross was sterilized by Dalkon Shield, an IUD issued by A.H. Robbins Company. She sued them and became the first woman of color to win a lawsuit against a major company. Her suit was followed by other class action suits that almost bankrupted the company. Loretta Ross went on to co-found the collective SisterSong, a leading reproductive justice organization for and by women of color.
Indigenous Women’s Mother Milk Project: Akwesasne Mother’s Milk Project was founded in 1981 by Katsi Cook, an Elder of Mohawk, grandmother, environmental activist, and midwife. The project monitored and documented levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other industrial pollutants found in the breast milk of Mohawk mothers living near St. Lawrence River. This sparked an indigenous-led movement at the intersection of reproductive justice and environmental justice.
Birth Doulas: In response to the abuses of women in hospitals, a new opportunity and economy has emerged and is being led by women and birthing people. A birth doula is someone who accompanies a pregnant person before, during, and after labor. A doula also exists for every step of the reproductive process. The introduction of doulas in the birthing space has called for the recentering of birthing people in the process of bringing new life into the world. Organizations guiding this work are Ancient Song Doula Services and Black Mamas Matter.
Case of Cece McDonald: Cece McDonald is an African-American, bisexual, trans woman and LGBTQ+ activist. In June 2012, McDonald accepted a plea bargain of 41 months for second-degree manslaughter of a man who attacked her and a friend in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Upon her release, McDonald began doing public speaking and performances that highlight the abuses against people of the trans experience.
NYC Standards for Respectful Care at Birth: The New York City Department of Health convened a committee as a part of their commitment to Sexual and Reproductive Justice. Compiling a list of resources, the DOHMH also provides legal referrals for anyone who has come into contact with any person or organization that defies the notion of reproductive justice and respectful care at birth.
Decriminalization of Sex Work: Sex workers are still fighting for protections and visibility, and are amongst the most policed. Sex workers in New Orleans are benefitting from alternatives to incarceration which allows them to access the necessary reproductive and sexual healthcare to keep them alive. This will hopefully be a pathway to the decriminalization of sex work.
Black Lives Matter Helping Single Mothers Become Homeowners: Piloted by the Louisville, Kentucky chapter of Black Lives Matter, this project helps black, single mothers of low-income brackets transition into homeownership to keep them permanently out of homelessness and to provide a stable home life to raise their families in. This comes at no additional cost to the mothers. Housing is an essential component of achieving reproductive justice.
Collaborating for Reproductive Justice on Staten Island
Planned Parenthood of New York City has been working to expand our support of the activists and organizations on Staten Island that are working to achieve reproductive justice for the communities they serve.