DAVID SYPHER JR: 'Reproductive justice' is not justice for the black community

Every day, it feels like black Americans are besieged by new recommendations, new ideologies, and new causes for action. This particularly true given the saturation of liberal activism within and around the black community, which leads to the introduction of an even more bewildering amount of causes that are deemed pro-black by those same liberals. And yes, many blacks trust them. But for black conservatives, discernment about what these ideas actually mean is critical, because it may well be the case that they do not serve the best interests of our community.

Such is the case with the concept of “reproductive justice,” which may be a Left-wing shibboleth, but which I do not believe actually serves black interests. I understand that to many activists, this may be surprising, if not heretical to hear. After all, they would protest, reproductive is simply about the right of women to control their bodies, work, and sexuality. To which I say, however well-intentioned an agenda may be, what matters is not the intentions but the actual effects it would have. And the consequences of “reproductive justice,” I believe, would be at best an imperfect fit with the goals of black women, and of the black community itself. If I am wrong, I will be delighted to hear it, but if that is true, then the case has not been proven. Until it is, we need a frank and honest discussion of what’s involved in the “reproductive justice” agenda, even if it challenges prevailing narratives. Especially if it does.

So let’s look at the tenets of what I take to be the “reproductive freedom” agenda, starting with the accessibility of contraceptives and abortion.

Reproductive justice advocates argue that contraceptives may not be as accessible to black women, which they spin as an inequality issue. Candidly, I don’t know what they’re talking about. Contraceptives are widely available to all women, black women included. In recent years, there has been a significant expansion in over-the-counter contraceptive options, providing women with more choices and control over their reproductive health. Additionally, sexual health programs distribute free condoms, and organizations like Planned Parenthood offer contraceptives. Furthermore, for those requiring doctor-prescribed contraceptives, the healthcare system provides a variety of low-cost options, ensuring even lower-income black women can access these vital healthcare resources. 

Activists make the same claims about abortion, arguing it’s not universally available along racial lines. Not only is that also untrue, but even if it were true, would it be a bad thing? Organizations like the Michigan Chapter of Right to Life report that more than 20 million black babies have been aborted since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion. Anyway, you slice it, that’s a significant impact on the black population; it has arguably stunted our growth relative to Hispanics, who currently have the largest population growth statistics. Yet the reproductive justice crowd wants to make it more widely available to black women? How does it serve the interests of blacks to promote access to a procedure which already erased 20 million of our children before they could be born?

Now, given the name “reproductive justice,” you might think that only contraception and abortion were contemplated by a movement so-named. But that is not true; the movement also argues for greater safety from police brutality, perhaps on the theory that this will disproportionately hurt some children after they were born. There is some truth to this: police accountability is undoubtedly essential in creating safer communities, and particularly in making black Americans (particularly those of lower income) feel safe in their communities. However, the problems of those lower-income black neighborhoods go well beyond police brutality.

And one of those questions is one that the “reproductive justice” advocates are entirely silent about: namely, persistently high crime rates. About this, statistics reveal a sobering truth: in 2022, according to the Statista Research Department, 225 Black people were killed by police. To be sure, that number is too high. But compare it to FBI Data, which shows that the number of Black people killed by others in their community was 2,547, a more than tenfold increase relative to those killed by police. Yet reproductive justice activists never mention any solutions to that. Those of us who consider ourselves black conservatives are glad to accept their help where police abuse exists, but we also recognize that this is only one part of a comprehensive approach, which includes police refor, but also emphasizes personal responsibility, community-driven safety initiatives, and long-term solutions that empower our communities to tackle the intricacies of this multifaceted problem. Police reform alone, meanwhile, would risk making an already bad problem much worse.

That brings me to the final prong of the reproductive justice platform: ensuring women’s control over their work, which also includes advocating for a living wage, particularly for (presumptively underpaid) black women. Again, at a facile level, this would seem to be good news, except that it starts from a false premise. The challenge of achieving a living wage is not rooted in the exploitation of Black women, but rather in the well-documented skills gap prevalent in America. This skills gap affects various in-demand professions like dentists, nurses, information security analysts, and architects, many of which offer substantial earnings. Addressing this issue is essential, as it ultimately narrows down to a mismatch between the skills citizens possess and what employers require.

To substantiate this argument, Gartner HR Research has found that 58% of the workforce will need new skill sets to excel in their jobs successfully. In other words, arguing for higher wages absent focusing on skills development will just translate to higher unemployment, which will only perpetuate the victimhood narrative that runs rampant in our community. No black person is served well by this. Whereas the black conservative approach, one that advocates for initiatives to empower individuals in underprivileged communities to acquire greater skills and qualifications, would actually enable black women to achieve the prerequisites for economic independence, and self-reliance.

In short, reproductive justice, while it may touch issues in the black community in the most facile way, ultimately fails by being too shallow. Every single issue they have highlighted, whether that be contraceptive access, abortion services, community safety, or workforce challenges, deserve a better, more comprehensive approach that respects the principles of everyone involved, very much including black conservatives, and which actually proposes to tackle each problem in its entirety, rather than only focusing on those parts that are convenient for Leftists. Black conservatives remain open to any discussion on how to solve these issues, provided those discussions are equally open. But until those discussions happen, black people of all stripes – and the black community at large -- should remain extremely leery of the reproductive justice movement, or of its claims to have our best interests at heart. 

Image: Title: black reproductive justice