Reproductive Justice Includes Racial Justice

Martin Luther King was pro-choice, #BlackLivesMatter, reproductive justice and racial justice, Roe v. Wade anniversary and Martin Luther King holiday The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag has been the victim of attempted hijackings by the anti-choice movement since its inception. Anti-choice activists coupled traditional slogans of their movement with hands-up imagery. It reminds me of the billboards that went up in Chicago, L.A. and New York City in neighborhoods of color a few years ago attempting to shame women of color into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. The Chicago Abortion Fund responded by pointing out that “[t]hese organizations and their billboard campaigns fail to address the social conditions that create the need for abortions, including poverty and a lack of access to contraception and reproductive health care.

Given the complex conversation we are having about #BlackLivesMatter and as we go into the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, remember the fact that he was pro-choice. In 1966 he was one of the four inaugural awardees of the PPFA Margaret Sanger Award. His wife Coretta accepted the award on his behalf and read a speech Dr. King wrote. In it he cites the importance of birth control to Black families to control their lives:

This is not to suggest that the Negro will solve all his problems through Planned Parenthood. His problems are far more complex, encompassing economic security, education, freedom from discrimination, decent housing and access to culture. Yet if family planning is sensible it can facilitate or at least not be an obstacle to the solution of the many profound problems that plague him.
Clearly the Kings realized the intimate connection between the ability to control when and if one starts a family with the ability to plan one’s life. Dr. King linked the legacy of slavery to Black women being able to control their reproductive lives and why, for him, gaining political control in America was not to be found through high birth rates.
 As a Latina feminist I know that in the U.S., far too often my reproduction and that of my Black sisters have been a target of the government. From forced pregnancies during slavery to forced sterilization, the simple choice to be a mother has historically been one too often denied us. That’s why reproductive justice is more than just being pro-choice. It encompasses our full lives and the pressures that impact our decisions.
 So as we head into a weekend when we celebrate and mark the birth of a great civil rights leader, let us not forget that next week we also mark the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade and its importance to the women’s rights movement. The fact that these two important dates often fall within the same week is the essence of the intersectionality of the two movements.
 Veronica Arreola writes the blog Viva la Feminista, where she tries to navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinadad. You can follow her on Twitter @veronicaeye.

To contact Veronica for an interview or to book her as a speaker, she can be reached at

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  • I don’t see how you make the leap from Dr. King being pro-contraception to his being pro-choice. There are plenty of people, black and white, who are for contraception and against abortion. Dr. King’s niece has stated that she believes him to have been pro-life. In 1966, when Dr. King accepted the award you referenced, Planned Parenthood was itself against abortion.

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