The Road to Roe: Paved with Bodies of Women of Color and the Legal Activism of African American

January 23, 2013

Every year when the anniversary of Roe v. Wade rolls around, I am troubled by the loud silences in our triumphant tales of struggle. Our pro-choice creation myths—including true stories about 26-year-old Sarah Weddington facing the Supreme Court, the Jane collective of Chicago referring women to safe abortion care in the sixties, and countless women who died from unsafe abortions—are largely narratives without the voices and contributions of African Americans.

As a history doctoral student who researches African Americans and abortion, the story I tell is quite different.

I frequently hear variations on these themes: “abortion is a white feminist thing,” “black people are against abortion,” or “abortion is black genocide.” When these ideas surface, I remind their proponents that almost a third of all U.S. abortions are currently performed on black women.


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