S.O.U.L. Sister’s Leadership Collective organizes in New York City (NYC) and Miami, with staff from each location having a wide variety of needs to support their care. We are Black and Brown people across the gender spectrum, whose experiences are informed and contextualized within our locations, yet the theme of our overarching struggle is the fight against the state for bodily autonomy. In NYC, our team lives in a state where currently Roe v Wade has not changed our ability to obtain an abortion if need should arise. In Miami, because the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS) ruling on Roe v Wade has made it the state’s decision on whether abortion is legal, and due to rapidly updating litigation, abortion rights are precarious. Currently “Florida law prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.” Just one state over in Alabama, abortion is illegal in all cases. The dangerousness of overturning Roe v Wade varies on location. In states with conservative leadership, it puts our people in a more precarious and needs-based position. Our approach to this variety of needs is to focus on who needs the most access to care and let that set the standard for our organizing.
In both NYC and Miami, we face brutal policing policies (especially in NYC with stop and frisk), little to no support for mental health crises, and when we do seek medical attention, we are still ignored and our needs deprioritized. The common thread is no matter where we are, we still face violence at the hands of the state and within medical institutions. The ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ idea of limited rights and danger has been a reality for Black and Brown communities for some time. During the years Black people were enslaved and beyond, Black women were repeatedly sexually assaulted in captivity, and were experimented on to create modern practices in gynecology. Black and Brown women in Puerto Rico were sterilized without their consent, and many Black and Brown women are sterilized during unnecessary medical procedures to this day all in the name of ‘eradicating poverty.’
“Reproductive Justice (RJ) means securing the human right to control our sexuality, our gender, our work, and our reproduction.” The reproductive justice movement centers on girls and women, but we know that we must include all people when securing these rights. This includes trans and gender nonconforming people who are able to give birth, and it also includes disabled people who are still denied the right to make decisions about pregnancy. This includes all men and women who may need access to not only abortions, but HIV care, and family planning. Bodily autonomy is the right to make decisions about what happens to our bodies with the support to carry out these decisions, and until everyone is granted the right to self governance, our human rights are at stake. Particularly for us, when we think of bodily autonomy and reproductive justice, we cannot leave behind our youth whose bodily autonomy is always precarious and in deference to their adult caretaker. Our staff in Miami are especially focused on young people’s access to information that supports their ability to make choices for themselves due to the nature of the conservative politics at play in Florida.
In Florida, DeSantis has shown us that bodily autonomy is something that the state believes they own and can control. Between the slew of anti-trans legislation like the introduction of a rule to bar Medicade coverage of transgender-related care, Don’t Say Gay, and a 15-week abortion ban. “Don’t Say Gay” [HB1557] is a bill recently signed into law in Florida by Governor Ron DeSantis regarding “Parental Rights in Education.” This law restricts kindergarten through highschool classroom discussions around gender identity and sexual orientation, gives parents an option to sue the school district if the policy is violated, requires parents be notified of any health or support services offered to their children, and allows parents to deny access to those services. It is very clear that trans, gender variant, queer, and birthing people are under attack and are the most vulnerable as our access to healthcare, gender-affirming or otherwise, is at stake. With this, our communities have had to find ways to ensure their access to care. Some folks have begun stockpiling testosterone and estrogen while others have turned to other community members to create vital connections to ensure that they will still be able to receive care, whether legal or otherwise. To say that this is “bad” is an understatement.
Our stake in this fight deeply relates to our work as a youth justice organization, and young people have been historically marginalized and stripped away of their rights as it relates to bodily autonomy. Young people have also been seen as people who do not have the most of best knowledge about their bodies and what to do with them. The overturning of Roe v Wade and the recent legal rulings of the conservative right further entrench the oppressions of young people. It is our duty to be co-conspirators in their quest for liberation, especially in this time. This liberation includes the right to full bodily autonomy, including access to reproductive care and hormone replacement therapy so they can make informed decisions for themselves. We do not organize solely for young people in New York City or Miami – we organize with the intention of collective liberation for all Black and Brown femmes, girls, women, and gender-nonconforming youth. The programs and healing practices we share with our community are created with the intention of empowering ALL youth we serve.
As a reminder, folks have been doing this work before we arrived at Roe v Wade being overturned, and have supported bodily autonomy for gender-affirming health services. Because organizers, healers, and teachers have always been ready, they’re the ones we should be reaching to for lessons and to give support. This includes The Doula Project, the PPT Action Fund, Birthing Advocacy Doulas, SisterSong, and Black Feminist Futures. The important thing to remember is that because people have been consistently doing this work and will continue to, we have a pathway to more freedoms. Let us trust in the wisdom and work of our people and contribute our time, talents, and tithes where we can, and remember that we are the ones that we have been waiting for.
Who to connect to:
- The Doula Project – https://www.instagram.com/thedoulaproject/ (they just published a DIY self-care zine for before, during and after abortion and are have a medication abortion hotline where a doula lend emotional and informational support <– Black queer femme doulas in NYC who also have social work/mental health training
- PPT (upstate NY) https://www.instagram.com/ppnocony/?hl=en (they have LGBTQ youth-specific offerings on their IG and opportunities for peer educators open plus offer birth control door delivery; they also uplift state-wide reproductive rights rallies)
- PPT Action Fund https://www.instagram.com/ppgnyact/?hl=en (they also post a lot of NYC-based actions)
- Birthing Advocacy Doulas (they offer trans POC led abortion doula courses as well) https://www.instagram.com/birthingadvocac
- SPARK RJ https://www.instagram.com/sparkrjnow/ (reproductive justice team organizing in Georgia and the South)
- Advocates for Youth https://www.instagram.com/advocatesforyouth/ (supports young people who need abortion care, and connects youth with information and resources)