Dear Philanthropy: Step Up for Reproductive Justice by Backing Black Women and Black-Led Nonprofits

This year marks 50 years since the right to choose was affirmed through Roe v. Wade, yet our reproductive freedoms continue to be threatened following last year’s devastating decision to overturn the landmark court case.

State Supreme Court races, statewide bans on abortion, and repeated attempts to revoke and now restrict access to abortion pills nationally underscore the direct and immediate impacts these decisions have on reproductive freedoms.

However, these actions don’t just impact reproductive healthcare. As history has taught us, the decision to repeal reproductive rights has ripple effects, often shaping and shifting how we define access and inclusion.

Alongside the milestone anniversary of Roe v. Wade, these attempts to restrict access give us a chance to spotlight who’s resisting them: Black-led organizations, women, gender expansive folks and people of color, all central to reproductive justice in our country.

Even amid extreme opposition and repeated actions to encroach upon basic human rights, these organizations and activists have never wavered or slowed. Take the passage of California’s Proposition 1, which prohibited the state from interfering with or denying an individual’s reproductive freedom, as just one example of how these champions have worked tirelessly, exercising their influence and building momentum to protect and advance the right to reproductive healthcare for all.

As we rally behind the champions activating to protect our freedoms, let us not forget how Black women have stood up repeatedly to seek justice.

In California, Black women, gender-expansive folks and Black-led nonprofits — including the L.A.-based Black Women for Wellness — are at the forefront of the intersectional reproductive justice movement. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, communities turned to trusted Black women and gender expansive organizers to forge safe havens.

During these times of uncertainty, Black-led nonprofits have continued to be a pillar for marginalized communities. Yet just 1.9% of all philanthropic dollars are going to women and girls, a small fraction of which goes to reproductive justice and an even smaller fraction of that to Black-led organizations.

It’s long past time for philanthropy to take a “we got you” stance on Black women’s leadership on reproductive justice. Listening to, taking the lead from and funding Black women, femmes, girls and gender-expansive organizers is vital to how California continues to fortify itself as a bastion of reproductive justice.

Women’s Foundation California is collaborating with governor’s offices and foundations across the West to develop the infrastructure needed to build a firewall for reproductive justice on behalf of people seeking care and those who provide it. But we need more support from philanthropy to get the job done.

Black Women for Wellness, which has a multigenerational lineage of organizing, has shaped California’s policy landscape on issues ranging from making doulas available to birthing folks to rolling back eugenics-based welfare policies, and other Black-led organizations have been instrumental to feminist movements.

Despite chronic underfunding, Black Women for Wellness and organizations like it are making a way out of no way. However, their trailblazing thinking and action have yet to translate into dollars in the field. The philanthropic reality is that most Black-led organizations are not funded over the long haul.

While there is more cultural recognition these days that Black women have always been central to the struggle for freedom and equality, it’s time to turn that recognition into dollars by giving to these organizations to support multi-year operations that enable this work to happen.

Black Women for Wellness is looking at the big picture and connecting the dots while working diligently to protect the political, economic and basic rights of Black women and girls. Black Women for Wellness makes it clear that an attack on abortion access is inextricably linked to questions of who gets to have a say in who you love or how you express yourself, and that that’s linked to what kind of medical care you receive, and what happens when you’re stopped for a traffic violation or when you cast your ballot.

It’s time for an approach that blends culture shift with policy change. Black Women for Wellness elevates the key challenges that Black women face and builds real power. Imagine what might be possible if we funded more of these organizations at the scale they deserve.

The philanthropic field in California — and across the country — has work to do. Philanthropy must put their money into action when prioritizing a trust-based approach. So how can philanthropists do their part?

Philanthropy has a role in strengthening California’s infrastructure as a reproductive freedom state for all, ensuring affordable and equitable access to reproductive healthcare, and acting as a powerful model for other states where reproductive rights are threatened.  The power and potential of organizations like Black Women for Wellness deserves nothing less than multi-year, unrestricted funding, and a lot of it, to keep this work moving forward now and for generations to come.

Black-led organizations and Black women continue to work to create a dignified world where all people’s basic right to reproductive justice is restored. We need to honor and support them, putting real dollars behind the organizations that do this in-community work, day in and day out, to build an intersectional feminist future that offers equity and justice for all.

Surina Khan is the CEO of Women’s Foundation California. Janette Robinson Flint is the Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness.

Originally Posted in Inside Philanthropy

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