The fight against reproductive justice has been like the proverbial slow train coming. I could hear the whistle, see the smoke from the engine. But it was always far enough to be background, an ominous but not present threat.
The leaked document gave us the schedule and now that it seems that the train has run over people who want to choose when they give birth, it feels, to me, both painful and beyond pain.
And so, I’ve been talking and thinking about it with my friends and my colleagues, including Wendi C. Thomas, our publisher.
Wendi has written before that MLK50’s vision “is of a nation where all residents have enough resources to thrive, and where public and private policy supports their success. Those policies include abortion rights.” And so, I wanted to talk about what being a pro-choice publication means and looks like in this post-Roe time.
Others are contemplating this in different ways. Wendi pointed me to a Twitter thread by journalist Wesley Lowery, who has long taken on the traditional journalism principle of objectivity. Lowery was sharing social media policy sent to Gannett journalists, as it pertains to maintaining ‘unbiased’ coverage. One guideline was “You cannot use social media to take a political position.” Lowery pointed out that as a Black man, simply stating “I am a human” is a political position.
In the same vein, Wendi said, “Starting a newsroom in the South is a political act.” That’s why MLK50 can’t present both sides when it comes to fundamental rights. I mean, there just aren’t two sides. “We support bodily autonomy and being free to make choices as you and your doctor see fit.” On abortion, as humans, that’s where we start.
That position, of course, won’t change. But what we’re contemplating now is in what ways might our coverage shift to reflect the new reality. There will be consequences to the loss of choice. Who do we hold accountable? Who has the power?
It’s not easy to parse. “The policy is so anti-poor at so many levels,” Wendi said. “Which angle do you pick first?”
Should we do more on the benefits of the child tax credit? Contraceptive access?
Expanding Medicare? Increasing food stamps? Free access to college? Student loan forgiveness?
Yes, all these issues are related. Poverty has tendrils.
Maybe, that’s where we begin — being explicit about what has been implicit. Digging into those connections, bearing down on policies that allow people to thrive. More of the same but deeper.
And with more urgency. In his concurring opinion, Clarence Thomas (I’m sorry I can’t give him the title “Justice”) wrote that the court reconsider more cases tied to the 14th Amendment, cases tied to the rights of same sex marriage and access to contraception. Already the court has ruled police can’t be sued for not warning suspects about their Miranda rights and has agreed to hear a case challenging the use of race in admissions, another about whether Alabama can draw a map that packs Black voters into one congressional district, and in the next few days could severely limit the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency to deal with climate change.
In other words, we’ve got to get ready because that train can back up and roll over us again.
Adrienne Johnson Martin is executive editor of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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