“Keep Your Promise, McCrory” tour stop in Charlotte: Speech by Reia Chapman, North Carolina Organizer for SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and an Advisory Council Member of Social Workers for Reproductive Justice
Good Afternoon. My name is Reia Chapman, and I am here on behalf of Women Voting Our Values and as a NC resident in opposition to House Bill 465.
SisterSong is a Southern based, national membership organization and our purpose is to build an effective network of individuals and organizations to improve institutional policies and systems that impact the lives of marginalized communities. SisterSong’s mission is to strengthen and amplify the collective voices of Indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice (RJ) by eradicating reproductive oppression and securing human rights.
Reproductive Justice is defined as the right to have children, not have children, to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments, and the right to bodily autonomy — and is based on an individual’s human right to make personal decisions about their life. The obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions is imperative for women of color.
As a RJ activist, I can say with certainty that abortions – like contraception and pre & post natal care – are a part of women’s overall reproductive healthcare and they should remain legal, accessible, affordable and safe. And as community organizer here in NC, I can say with certainty that abortion restrictions like state-mandated waiting periods are the wrong priority for my community.
Women of color are already limited with access to healthcare services in North Carolina. For example, when Medicaid expansion in NC was denied, over half-a-million North Carolinians remained at risk – especially the citizens in rural North Carolina that face financial and physical barriers to receiving preventative health care and health education as well as treatment for existing health problems.
HB 465 represents the very thing Governor McCrory agreed not to do: INCREASE ABORTION RESTRICTIONS! We charge this as Reproductive Oppression! Reproductive oppression is the control and exploitation of women, girls, and individuals through our bodies, sexuality, labor, and reproduction. Restricting a woman’s right to the full range of reproductive healthcare in essence controls the destiny of entire communities through the bodies of women and individuals.
Forcing women into motherhood has serious implications. History and research indicate that desperation is dangerous which is why we must fight against any type of legislation that seeks to prohibit our Reproductive Freedom. We cannot forget that before Roe v Wade (1973) made abortion legal in this county women were losing their lives because they were trying to take care of themselves.
Oppressive legislation such as HB 465 further contributes to the marginalization of the most vulnerable communities in NC, and making women wait for 72 hours is dangerous and abusive. Mandatory delays create additional burdens for North Carolina women especially women in rural areas who have to travel many hours outside of their communities to reach a healthcare provider.
This is bigger than abortion. This is about trusting women and their ability to do what is best for themselves because we do not know their story. Therefore, we must eradicate any barriers that impact their reproductive decisions. This is not a singular issue with a single issue solution. Audrey Lorde stated “there is no such thing as a single issue because we don’t live single-issue lives.”
Representative Jacqueline Schaffer said in a statement before the house that “The poorest decisions that we make are the ones we make under pressure and on impulse.” The timetable proposed is medically unnecessary. The implication here is that women lack the capacity to consider their own needs, desires, and options. This is a matter of Reproductive Freedom. Women in NC are not making business transactions with regard to their Reproductive Health. We need to trust women to make reproductive choices for themselves.
Instead of limiting access to healthcare for NC women, We need our legislators focusing on:
- Improving awareness of existing health care programs, like Medicaid, Medicare, and Health Choice through community outreach programs.
- Adjusting/simplifying the requirements of current programs, such as those listed above, to allow more/improved coverage for those in need.
- Ensuring that rural counties receive more healthcare funding and improving healthcare access through increased incentives for doctors to open practices in rural areas and better managed/funded healthcare facilities.
- Initiating programs for those with no transportation or limited transportation to receive care.
- Establishing a living wage ordinance to insure that rural citizens have the funds necessary to incorporate preventative healthcare into their lives.
- Asking citizens what they want or need in terms of healthcare. Encourage community involvement in implementing change in health care access through outreach groups. Get involved.
As I close, I must say as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I am deeply concerned regarding the psychological impact and mental health of women who will be most affected by this measure. This is a critical time in the lives of all women. Daily we make choices around our reproductive health from what we eat, where we live, where we work, to who we’re intimate with and the type of healthcare support we need.
We believe it is essential to utilize the RJ frame as a means to unite women and their communities, be relevant to communities of color, and link to advocates from the nation’s capitol to the grassroots in order to develop proactive strategies to protect and preserve our lives.
We believe that RJ is achieved when all of us have the social, economic, and political power and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality and reproduction for ourselves, our families and our communities.
If Pat McCrory believes in a healthy North Carolina, he should veto HB 465!