‘We Don’t Have To Accept The Status Quo’: Young Black Organizers Are Fighting Hard To Protect Reproductive Rights

Maci Hall

After Roe v. Wade was overturned, reproductive justice and women’s health care is more important than ever, especially with 2024 being an election year.

Unfortunately, as it’s been evident over the past couple of years, the right to reproductive freedom in America is being stripped away, case after case.

Under the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling, frozen embryos were classified and legally considered children. As one of the oldest women-centered reproductive justice advocacy organization in the Southeast states, “[t]his ruling does not exist in a vacuum; it intersects with broader issues of racial inequality in healthcare. The decision by the Alabama Supreme Court is a stark reminder of how legal interpretations can have disproportionate effects on minority communities, influencing not just reproductive choices but also broader health outcomes.”

In addition, a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether mifepristone, a drug that has been used in the termination of pregnancies since it was approved by the FDA 20 years ago, can be restricted in its use.

In the wake of this barrage on women’s rights, one organization, Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE) is working to “build power and sustain a young people’s movement for reproductive justice by centering the leadership of young people of color who are women, queer, trans, nonbinary, and people of low income.”

As Deputy Director of Policy and Programs at URGE, Hope Jackson told ESSENCE, that organization works to “engage with and mobilize young people to advocate for the future of reproductive rights in some of the most underrepresented states with the most restrictive abortion bans. URGE members use educational and get-out-the-vote initiatives to empower their peers, friends, and families to fight for reproductive freedom.”

“Reproductive justice is intersectional, and we must consider the needs of everyone — no matter their gender, race, zip code, or financial status,” Jackson continued. “Abortion bans are racist, and harm and endanger the lives of Black and Brown communities the most. To achieve true reproductive justice, URGE is fighting to ensure the rights of all people are considered in legislation.”

URGE is waging that fight on the ground, advocating for Black women in hostile political climates like the South and Midwest. “In my role, I was on the front lines of the recent election in November for putting abortion into the Ohio constitution, and I got to experience firsthand the motivation Ohioans had for abortion access,” says Ainslee Johnson-Brown, Ohio Policy & Movement Building Director at URGE. “I take that experience into my everyday, because I know the young people of Ohio are fighting for these rights everyday.”

Kaelea Lucas, a Georgia State Organizer at URGE said she was “incredibly inspired by the youth, who continue to show all of us that we don’t have to accept the status quo.”

Lucas continued: “They enter the reproductive justice space with such verve and passion that even in hostile climates like now, I am reassured that we will never be battling alone. It’s shocking and inspiring to be in any space that brings young people out together for our work. The wealth of knowledge and creativity is unmatched. I always leave those spaces feeling inspired and able to view the world from a space of endless possibilities instead of ruminating on what we lack.”

“I hold a reproductive justice future as my North Star. I truly believe it is our life’s work as activists to do everything we can to advance our dream and pass the torch to the next generation who will not only continue our work but continue to build upon our dream,” Lucas added. “In a more quantifiable way, I hope to be a part of building a movement that not only restores a person’s right to choose in terms of their pregnancy outcome, but also builds a landscape of abortion access.”

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