After more than five decades, the abortion rights organization, commonly known as NARAL, has been rebranded as Reproductive Freedom for All.
The name change and the slight shift in focus come as the political battle over abortion rights has evolved to a broader movement for reproductive freedoms – including access to birth control, paid family leave, and maternal health care – which advocates believe will be a winning issue for Democrats in the 2023 and 2024 elections.
“Reproductive freedom as a messaging framework, versus the choice-life binary, was clearly becoming a lot more effective and persuasive in how we talk about abortion,” Mini Timmaraju, president of Reproductive Freedom for All, told theGrio.
Timmaraju said the organization wanted to be more inclusive of pro-life Americans who support reproductive health, but more importantly, to center Black women and other women of color.
“Black women, in particular, don’t have choices in most of these cases,” she told theGrio, noting that in many states where abortions are restricted, there are few, if any, clinics to seek abortion care. “If you have no resources to access care…you effectively also don’t have a choice.”
Timmaraju continued, “From a values perspective, it also means centering the folks most affected by abortion access, and those are people of color. So this was an opportunity for us to match our message frame and our branding.”
After the conservative majority in the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade, data showed that Black women stood to be disproportionately impacted in states where the procedure would be restricted or outright banned.
Timmaraju said it’s no surprise that Black women feel the intersectional impacts of limited abortion access and reproductive care, socioeconomic conditions, and a shoddy health care system.
“The states with abortion bans now correlate with the worst outcomes for maternal mortality and health care, and these are predominantly Black and brown women,” she explained. She also noted that criminalization of abortion access and outcomes disproportionately affect Black, brown, and AAPI women.
“When hospital systems shut down in places like Iowa, and doctors leave places like Texas because OBGYNs are afraid of the climate of prosecution, we know that that disproportionately affects communities of color. You have fewer places to go for your basic care.”
There’s also a childcare crisis in America that has ballooned to $122 billion in annual lost earnings, productivity, and revenue in 2022. In addition to advocating on the frontlines for reproductive health, Reproductive Freedom for All is also lobbying with broader coalitions on issues related to the care economy.
“As we are forcing more and more families into pregnancies that they don’t want, we’re also limiting access to affordable and safe childcare, which, unfortunately, affects communities of color,” said Timmaraju.
She described the compounding crises as a “perfect storm,” adding, “Black women as always are at the tip of the spear for the fight, but they’re also at the tip of the spear for the effects and the disastrous aftermath.”
The good news for the reproductive freedom movement is that, so far, abortion and reproductive freedom appears to be a winning issue for advocates and politicians who support reproductive rights.
In the wake of the Dobbs ruling, voters in Michigan, California, and Vermont favored enacting abortion as a constitutional right. And in red states, Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana, measures to further restrict the procedure failed.
The outrage of the Dobbs decision and subsequent abortion bans across the country have been credited for why Democrats performed better than expected in the midterm elections.
On Nov. 7, Ohio is next up to vote on an amendment to the state constitution, known as Issue 1, which would guarantee the right to an abortion. It comes after conservatives in a special election lost an attempt to raise the threshold to make amendments to the state constitution ahead of the November ballot measure.
Advocates and Democrats argued the amendment effort was to thwart the upcoming vote on abortion.
As the reproductive justice movement forges ahead, Timmaraju said it also helps to have advocates in positions of power on the national stage leading the charge – particularly female leaders of color like Vice President Kamala Harris.
“Vice President Harris has just been incredible for our movement,” she said, praising the more than 40 roundtables Harris has conducted with reproductive freedom advocates, state legislators, and stakeholders and her recent “Fight for Our Freedoms” college tour engaging with young voters, particularly young Black voters.
“Without young Black people engaged and motivated right now, there’s no way for us to win. So we have to invest resources and time, and the vice president is using her platform to uplift those voices and to speak directly to [them],” said Timmaraju.
Young people are the “most dramatically affected” by the Dobbs decision, she said, adding, “They’re at the beginning of their reproductive journey, and this fundamental freedom has been taken away from them.
“I think her deployment has been brilliant. I personally find a lot of comfort in seeing her on the road doing these events,” said Timmaraju.
The reproductive freedom movement also saw a fellow advocate appointed to the U.S. Senate as former Emily’s List executive director Laphonza Butler recently entered the upper chamber of Congress. Butler, the first Black lesbian to serve in Congress, restored the sole Black female representation in the Senate after Harris stepped down to become vice president.
Timmaraju said the lack of Black women in the Senate is “really problematic” and stressed that pro-reproductive organizations “need to be supporting as many Black women as possible in the House and the Senate” for the upcoming elections.
The alternative to electing and re-electing pro-reproductive proponents to office is seeing Republicans continue to lead abortion bans or going as far as introducing a federal abortion ban.
“Republicans would love to shift the narrative that Democrats are extreme and make up all these paths of more disinformation about abortion care and what it looks like. But we know that even the majority of Republicans are with us on the bodily autonomy reproductive freedom framework,” she said.
She continued, “They think they can trick the American people into believing that a 15-week ban is a reasonable, compassionate compromise. And they think that Democrats who support the broader range of access as enshrined by Roe v. Wade and its original iteration in 1973 are going to be perceived as too extreme by Americans.”
Timmaraju added, “Good luck to them. Keep going down this line because it’s a loser for them.”
Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.
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