Birth and Bodily Autonomy: Editor’s Letter and TOC

Associate Editor Lydia Moran

While planning this May issue, we took inspiration from SisterSong, an Atlanta-based women of color collective. They created the term “reproductive justice,” defined 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 this magazine, Jocelyn McQuirter asks, “How is it that Black women choose to have children who face a greater likelihood of prematurely losing their innocence?”

In speaking about the likelihood of Roe v. Wade falling this summer as the Supreme Court decides Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Erin Maye Quade of Gender Justice says, “The anti-LGBTQ movement is targeting gender-affirming care and youth the same way abortion has been targeted. Criminalizing people who provide care, criminalizing people who access that care. It is the same playbook.”

Anti-abortion activists have made it clear that the ultimate goal of their movement is to give fetuses legal rights and protections under the constitution. “Fetal rights” or the “personhood movement” would make it easier to criminalize people for their pregnancy outcomes. This is already happening. In October, Brittney Poolaw, a member of the Comanche Tribe in Oklahoma, was convicted of manslaughter for a miscarriage that prosecutors linked to her drug use, and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Her case is one of 1,200 such cases decided in the last 15 years. Indigenous and Black women are overrepresented.

There is no world where reproductive rights can be realized while people are robbed of bodily autonomy. Choosing whether or not to birth a child, raising a child in a society that values that life, and feeling safe enough to bring your “full self into the birth process,” as health equity researcher J’mag Karbeah says, are unarguable human rights.

Table of Contents

Policy & Politics — If Roe Falls

Family & Home — Climate Leader Baby Boom

Perspective — The Peculiar Birthing Rights of Black Women

Health — Birthing With Your Full Self

Art of Living — Placing Birth in Public Memory

Education — Real-World Solutions to ACEs

Thoughts — Body

Adventure — My 12,000-Mile Bike Trip