One of the major problems with what we call "the second wave women's movement" was its inability to connect with and organize women of color and poor women. Even now, as Republicans and right-wingers launch yet another barrage against women's rights which we have dubbed a "War on Women," too often opposition to that war is framed by many groups on the left as primarily focused on abortion and birth control.
Too often, the leadership and membership of national women's organizations are not inclusive of those women who will suffer the most—women of color and women who are poor.
One of the things I had to realize as a young community activist in the late 60s and early 70s was that though I was not interested in having children at the time, many women in my community were. In fact, one of the major issues Puerto Rican, Native American women and Black women were confronted with was sterilization, a population control measure which was an extension of the eugenics movement.
The poor have always been stigmatized for having children. How many times have I heard snide remarks about "those people" with "too many children"? How many women of color have been stigmatized as "unwed mothers," "baby mommas" or "female heads of households"? Having children, or more than two of them, is reserved as a privilege for the upper classes.
Not only is it deemed unacceptable to have more than two kids if you are poor, our society works to make any other choices untenable—adequate, affordable housing for low-income families is almost nil. Try to find a four or five bedroom apartment if you are not well off. Affordable day care is another barrier. Feeding a family healthy food in low income areas is almost impossible.
The whole issue of reproduction goes beyond ovaries and abortion. Yes, those are part of the picture, and women on Medicaid had to pay the price for having abortion limited first—with Hyde—and no major outcry happened at the time. Repealing Hyde still really hasn't become part of the majority left's agenda.
In activist communities of color, we understood this issue of reproductive justice as a broader one, including food, clothing, shelter, the environment, health care, jobs with decent pay and day care.
But legislators and majority women's groups did not. Instead we wound up with Welfare to Work and other programs designed to adversely affect our mothers, children and families.
While many people believe that the movement to secure reproductive control or "choice" for women centers solely on abortion rights, for many women of color abortion was not the only, or primary, focus.
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