Black Abortion Battleground: Georgia
by Heidi Williamson, National Advocacy Coordinator of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective
The black community is the frequent testing ground for bad legislation and restrictive medical policies. But this time, according to sponsors and anti-abortionists, its purpose is to stop discrimination - before birth.
Anti-abortion activists and legislators in the Georgia General Assembly are seeking pass Senate Bill 529, the OBGYN Criminalization & Racial Discrimination Act. With the same bill stalled in the House, Republicans are working fiercely to fast-track SB 529 through the Senate with the hopes of restricting the rights of African-American women by name and all women by intent.
Both bills 1) prevent the abortion of a fetus based on race, color, or sex, 2) penalize medical professionals for alleged "criminal coercion" of women seeking abortions, and 3) impede women of color from accessing their constitutionally-protected right to abortion.
Both bills suggest that abortion providers solicit and coerce African-American women for the sole purpose of aborting black babies. Both bills exploit African-American women and discriminate against them in hopes of confounding leaders in the African-American community, and splitting the black vote during mid-term elections. Both bills have galvanized women of color from across the state to protect abortion access in Georgia.
Watching hypocrisy in action is quite the farce. But for African American women in Georgia, this skit is not funny and could have dire consequences.
Publicly, white Republican men claim to care about pregnant black women who are allegedly being targeted by the abortion industry. Privately, those same men scramble to "opt Georgia out" of national healthcare reform and find the perfect wedge issue for the mid-term elections to build the Republican base in African-American communities.
These bills are constitutionally inadequate, despite the sponsors' best efforts to amend vague concepts. Fundamentally, both bills interfere with a woman's constitutional right to access abortion based on speculation about her reasons.
Speaking against the bill, Lynn Hogue, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University said, "You cannot carve out particular reasons and make them 'unlawful' based on a vague definition that they are 'coercive'."
Second, both bills mandate racial profiling of African American women under the guise of "preventing coercion." This legislation will force providers to question each patient about the reason she seeks an abortion and violate patient confidentiality.
Finally, the bill introduces the concept of "unlawful coercion" without further definition and makes the undefined action subject to serious criminal penalties. The results of these bills will lead to the lack of access to abortion services for African American women.
The most alarming fact of all: They say they want to protect black children by discriminating against black women. We are not fools and we are not amused. The only reality that matters is this: Our lived experiences drive how and when we choose abortion, not abortion providers.
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