Austin Women’s Health Center stands with the millions of Black and brown people around the world who have been spurred by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis to demand an end to all police violence and the extrajudicial murders of Black people. We have been appalled by the repeated (and endless) use of violence demonstrated by police departments in response to those protests, such as through the use of tear gas (a known abortifacient) and the shooting of rubber bullets at those of us exercising our right to assemble.
We understand that when advocating for abortion rights, we must advocate against the same white supremacist system which not only disproportionately impacts Black and brown communities’ access to abortion and other healthcare, but puts their lives at risk in other ways as well, every day. We must stand against a white supremacist system that allowed police officers to take the lives of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, Mike Ramos, Philando Castile, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and countless others.
We must also stand for a world where Black girls — like Aiyana Stanley-Jones once was — can go to bed at night without fearing for their lives. Or sit through routine traffic stops with their families without the fear of witnessing a murder, like the daughter of Diamond Reynolds, who we watched calm her mother in the aftermath of Philando Castile’s murder. We believe that Black women like Atatiana Jefferson should come out of welfare checks alive. Black women and girls deserve to live in a country where they don’t have to celebrate their friends’ birthdays by eulogizing them on social media, like the friends of Breonna Taylor were forced to do on Friday, June 5. We recognize that too often Black women and girls are left out of conversations about police brutality and we want to lift up their names. Without racial justice, there can be no reproductive justice.
What Is Reproductive Justice?
Coined in 1994, the term “reproductive justice” was defined by SisterSong as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities,” in response to recognizing “that the women’s rights movement, led by and representing the middle class and wealthy white women, could not defend the needs of women of color and other marginalized women and trans* people.” According to SisterSong, “women of color and other marginalized women also often have difficulty accessing: contraception, comprehensive sex education, STI prevention and care, alternative birth options, adequate prenatal and pregnancy care, domestic violence assistance, adequate wages to support our families, safe homes, and so much more.” In Texas — which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates among the country — Black women are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth, and across the nation, an increasing number of Black women and transgender people have been killed as a result of “a society that protects racism, misogyny, and transphobia.”
Reproductive justice uses a framework that combines reproductive rights and social justice, and as an abortion provider, we recognize the disparities in access to healthcare among Black and brown communities, the ways organizations are committed to dismantling this racist and classist system that impacts our patients and patients everywhere, and we stand in solidarity as we continue to listen and learn from the voices of those most impacted. We echo leaders and advocates who recognize reproductive justice includes ensuring Black and brown communities have the right to govern their own lives, bodies, and futures. When their lives are taken at the hands of police, that right is taken away.
Organizers across the nation have implemented initiatives to bring an end to police violence once and for all. Activists for prison abolition — a movement led by Black women and Black-led organizations for decades — have long recognized that attempts at reform have been futile, and are calling on communities to pressure their local officials to abolish prisons and jails in order to create an equitable society where resources and support — which those who commit crimes often lack — are funded and accessible instead.
#8toAbolition, created by organizers in response to the campaign #8Can’tWait (eight ways to reform the police), provides eight “reforms” with the goal of creating safer communities without police through abolishing prisons and jails. In response to #8Can’tWait, #8toAbolition states:
“As police and prison abolitionists, we believe that this campaign is dangerous and irresponsible, offering a slate of reforms that have already been tried and failed, that mislead a public newly invigorated to the possibilities of police and prison abolition, and that do not reflect the needs of criminalized communities.
We honor the work of abolitionists who have come before us, and those who organize now. A better world is possible. We refuse to allow the blatant co-optation of decades of abolitionist organizing toward reformist ends that erases the work of Black feminist theorists. As the abolitionist organization Critical Resistance recently noted, 8 Can’t Wait will merely ‘improve policing’s war on us.’ Additionally, many abolitionists have already debunked the 8 Can’t Wait campaign’s claims, assumptions, and faulty science.”
The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) was created in 2014 “as a space for black organizations across the country to debate and discuss current political conditions; develop shared assessments of what political interventions were necessary in order to achieve key policy, cultural and political wins; convene organizational leadership in order to debate and co-create a shared movement-wide strategy.” The organization “seeks to reach millions, mobilize hundreds of thousands, and organize tens of thousands, so that Black political power is a force able to influence national and local agendas in the direction of our shared Vision for Black Lives.”
Following the murder of George Floyd, M4BL developed the Week of Action in Defense of Black Lives from June 1 – June 7, calling on community members to join the millions fighting for an end to police brutality, and an equitable and safe society for all Black and brown people, through specific forms of actions each day.
In Austin, protesters have continued to gather outside of the Texas State Capitol building and Austin Police Department headquarters to demand officials defund the local police — which was allocated $440 million last year — and divest funding to community-based resources, like the RISE fund (emergency funding assistance for those experiencing financial hardships, which directly helps Black and brown communities who are disproportionately affected by the risk and impacts of COVID-19) instead. But after hearing hours of testimony from local activists, community members, and officials in favor of defunding the police, Austin Mayor Steve Adler and the majority of city council members voted in favor of allocating more funding for the APD. And although 1,400 people signed a petition in favor of replenishing the RISE fund with $70 million, Austin City Council found $12 million more “equitable,” said Paula Rojas of Communities of Color United.
Councilmembers in favor of defunding APD are still pushing to remove $100 million from its budget, in addition to calling for immediate reform — such as no longer using chokeholds, prohibiting shooting at fleeing people, and not using teargas against people exercising their First Amendment right to protest — and Councilmember Greg Casar called for the resignation of APD Police Chief Brian Manley “following his handling of the ongoing protests against police brutality spurred by the death of George Floyd.”
On June 11, Austin City Council voted in favor of defunding AP, but what that looks like won’t be figured out until planning for the next fiscal year budget for 20-21 (beginning in October). A separate resolution brought by Councilmember Greg Casar “bans or significantly reduces the use of certain weapons and maneuvers by police, including the use of tear gas at any time and “less lethal” ammunition during protests. The resolution also bans the use of chokeholds by police officers, although Manley said at a news conference Thursday the department has not taught or approved of chokeholds for decades, according to the Austin-American Statesman. Manley said he had already taken steps to outright ban the maneuver.”
However, at a peaceful vigil last week, just one day after Austin City Council approved these changes, APD unjustly attacked protestors again — including kneeling on the neck of one protestor in a similar manner used in the murder of George Floyd.
How to Help
Black and brown protestors and community members who have been unjustly arrested for peaceful protesting (or after riots incited by the police) now face bail fees (some which have increased), so donations to bail funds to support them will continue to be needed across the U.S. If you’re able to, consider making a donation to the following organizations to help with the mounting costs and to take a stand against police brutality. If you can’t donate, think about supporting these organizations through volunteering:
Restoring Justice (Texas)
Other bail funds can be found through the database of the National Bail Fund Network, and for a comprehensive list of other places to donate — such as memorial funds like the George Floyd Memorial Fund, frontline funds, community enrichment, and restoration organizations, youth-oriented funds, legal aid and defense funds, and Black LGBTQ+ funds and organizations — check out these lists from NYMag and Rolling Stone.
A Twitter user has also compiled this list of fundraisers for protesters in Austin who were victims of police brutality and need help with medical expenses — like Texas State University student Justin Howell, who was critically injured after being shot in the head with a “non-lethal” bullet, and Saraneka “Nemo” Martin, who was shot in the abdomen and back with a “non-lethal” bullet while pregnant.
For tips on protecting your health and protesting more safely among the COVID-19 pandemic, click here. While experts say it isn’t possible to be totally free of risk, and that the use of tear gas and other irritants by police can exacerbate the risk, there are still things you can do to help protect yourself like staying home if you’re sick, maintaining social distancing when able, continuing to use a mask (it should cover your mouth and nose), leaving contacts at home, minimizing chants, and wearing goggles.
Understanding Race In America & Prison Abolition – A Reading and Media List
1619: A podcast about the history and legacy of slavery
Uncivil: About the lesser-known stories of resistance during the Civil War
Serial Season 3: The creators of the podcast take a look at the criminal justice system through following the cases in a Cleveland Court and learn a lot about the racism plaguing our court systems.
In The Dark Season 2: The creators of the podcast take listeners through a grave miscarriage of justice in a town divided by race.
13th: Ava DuVernay gives us a brief history lesson and exploration of the US prison system
Time: The Kalief Browder Story: A docu series about an innocent young black man who became a casualty of our racist criminal justice system.
4 Little Girls: Spike Lee explores the bombing of Birmingham, Alabama’s 16th Street Baptist Church which killed Addie Mae Collins (14), Cynthia Wesley (14), Carole Robertson (14), and Carol Denise McNair (11).
Sister Outsider: Audre Lorde schools us on race, gender, class, and sexuality.
Killing Rage, Ending Racism: bell hooks, one of feminism’s most prolific writers, helps us understand how we got here and how we might get out of it.
Assata: Assata Shakur takes us into the Black Power movements of the 1970s, the prison system, and the lengths police will go to protect the system.
Women, Race, and Class: Angela Davis explains how the lack of analysis around race, class, and sexuality undermines feminist movements and keeps us from progress.
Are Prisons Obsolete? Angela Davis
Prison Culture: Run by one woman, Mariame Kaba, who has largely shaped the talk around police/prison abolition.
Critical Resistance: Another early voice in the movement to end carceral punishment.
Black-owned Businesses in Austin
Despite being recognized as a “liberal” or “progressive” city, Austin has a long history of “deep-rooted inequality and segregation”, and gentrification continues to push Black and brown communities out of their homes. If you’re able to, consider supporting Black families by purchasing goods or take-out food from Black-owned businesses in Austin.
For a list of Black-owned businesses across the U.S. and globally, click here.