Why we can’t have Environmental Justice without Reproductive Justice

by Alice Kurima Newberry

May 31, 2019

Abortion access is critical and necessary to our health and well being of our environment

© Tim Aubry / Greenpeace

Access to healthcare is a key social and environmental justice issue for Americans. We all deserve the right to a safe and healthy environment, yet we see racial disparities in nearly every key health indicator. Missouri has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the US, particularly for women of color. It’s critical that movements collaborate to address equity across all issues, because they are all connected.

— Linda Locke, Board Chair, Planned Parenthood of St. Louis and Southwest Missouri.

The most restrictive abortion bans since Roe v. Wade passed in several state legislatures this session. Kentucky and Georgia just passed bills that ban abortion around six weeks of pregnancy (six weeks is often before people even know they’re pregnant). Alabama passed the strictest abortion law on the books: it banned abortion with very few exceptions. The last abortion-providing clinic in Missouri is in St. Louis and set to close without legal intervention today. The list goes on and on.

Bills that eliminate abortion access are of course not new. What is new is how these bills seem strategically coordinated. Some of these bills even criminalize health care workers who provide abortions or assist those in getting access to abortion services. Right now, 14 states have introduced and/or passed abortion prohibitive legislation which has lasting consequences for people everywhere.

This kind of pattern has dire consequences for us all. Access to abortion and reproductive healthcare is fundamentally tied to environmental justice.

We must have safe and healthy environments to ensure a green and peaceful future.

For decades, scientists have spoken about the dangers of environmental degradation and climate change, including the disproportionate effects for marginalized indigenous, black, brown, and migrant communities. By eliminating abortion access we remove a critical piece of health care necessary for the well-being of people and the planet. It is critical we give autonomy and choice to people’s bodies to ensure they are making reproductive decisions without fear of environmental factors.

These new extremist laws are undermining reproductive sovereignty and bodily autonomy, in the same way, that environmental injustice impacts the most vulnerable—this is an old game of the powerful eroding the rights of those at greatest risk.

Environmental justice demands self-determination for individuals and all communities which includes the right to live in a safe environment needed to raise children. These anti-democratic bills are deliberate attacks from right-wing extremists and are an active threat to our well-being.

Enough is enough.

Renewed attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade are playing out since the election of Trump and the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Now, more than ever, we must recognize the environmental movement’s ties to reproductive justice. We’re finding common ground in understanding systems of power that harm our bodies and the planet, both of which are fundamentally connected. And this understanding of shared power imbalances helps us ground our cross-movement work to connect all of our struggles. The assault on the environment, our very own bodies and the assault on privacy —on which reproductive choice is based—must be fought together.

By Alice Kurima Newberry

Alice Kurima Newberry is the Community Manager Associate at Greenpeace USA. She works to engage and activate supporters across the nation to take further action in protecting the environment and its people.

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