Here in Mississippi, it seems as though we’re moving from one disaster to the next. For the last few weeks, we’ve been assisting relief efforts for the residents of Rolling Fork devastated by last month’s tornado.
Before that, it was the water crisis in Jackson, compromising clean water access for tens of thousands of people — most of them people of color. And in the middle of it all, Mississippians continue to face sustained attacks on our reproductive health and bodily autonomy.
Each of these are examples of how disasters–manmade or natural–fall disproportionately on our most marginalized communities. Our most vulnerable citizens are in a state of constant emergency, whether as the result of delayed or inadequate relief, consistent denial of basic necessities, or intrusions into their bodily autonomy and healthcare decisions.
These may seem like separate incidents, but in truth, they are all connected. As an abortion freedom fighter and reproductive justice advocate, I know all too well that these failures and crises are part of a broader pattern of neglect and harm by our government.
These interconnected systems of oppression are working toward a common goal. They are part of a larger playbook, animated by white supremacy and the need to maintain power over women and people who can become pregnant, Black and brown communities, LGBTQIA+ people and low-income people.
Coordinated attacks like these work to undermine reproductive justice in our most vulnerable communities: that is, the basic human rights to maintain personal bodily autonomy, control when and whether to have children or not have children and to parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.
So-called “pro-life” and “pro-family” elected leaders in Mississippi have done almost nothing to protect Mississippians’ lives or their families. They have refused to or shown little interest in supporting policies that can really help people take care of their families, like making childcare more affordable, ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work, protecting access to safe drinking water for families in Jackson or supporting rural hospitals and healthcare clinics.
Instead, the agenda of these “pro-life” politicians continue to attack our reproductive freedoms and ignore policies that could actually help Mississippi families. Lawmakers have done everything they can to ban abortion access and gender-affirming care while targeting, undermining, or ignoring our critical health care infrastructure. In addition to their attacks on abortion care, Mississippi has gone after our LGBTQIA+ community. By the end of January, the legislature had already introduced 31 anti-LGBTQ bills. Meanwhile, Gov. Tate Reeves recently signed a bill banning gender-affirming care for minors in the state.
And these are not the only ways in which they seek to trap people in a cycle of poverty and powerlessness for the sake of enriching the most powerful in our society. They have destroyed our environment and polluted our drinking water, and instead of taking responsibility, they deny any wrongdoing and offer no meaningful solutions. On top of all that, they’re working to disenfranchise voters like us, taking away our power to try and right these historical and present wrongs.
There is no doubt that decades of systemic racism have contributed to situations like the Jackson water crisis. That same racism continues to animate lawmakers who see our multiracial, intersectional democracy as a threat to their power. Taken as a whole, it’s clear that this is targeted malice, rooted in white supremacy. These policies are designed to punish and control marginalized communities across the state.
No matter our background or income, we all deserve safe and sustainable communities and the ability to control our futures. That's why our organization, SHERo, won't back down. We are abortion freedom fighters, and yes, we’re still here. We’re continuing to fight abortion bans, ensure people know how to access care outside of Mississippi, and are working to counter abortion stigma. We want to make sure all Mississippians can access health care and the resources they need for themselves, their families, and their communities to thrive without barriers.
We’re here to let every Mississippian know we have their back in the fight for reproductive justice and against white supremacy — but we need help. We need everyone who shares our values to show up, whether that’s by volunteering to provide support, donating to an abortion fund, or urging our leaders to advocate for policies that help families. Call out the racism, misogyny, and white supremacy inherent in our government’s consistent denial of our rights. Join in SHERo’s mission to achieve reproductive justice for every generation of Mississippians ahead of us, no matter what.
Michelle Colon is an abortion freedom fighter and founder of SHERo (Sisters Helping Every Woman Rise and Organize) Mississippi. An organization dedicated to building and promoting leadership among Black women, girls, and femmes in the state.
This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: It’s not just abortion: anti-choice lawmakers over MS's most vulnerable