MALCS Roe v Wade Letter & Statements

Dear MALCS Community,

Although expected, when we received the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, the scream of La Llorona vibrated throughout our communities. We were mourning the lives of all those affected in profound ways by being denied the autonomy of their bodies and their futures. Nonetheless, to say we were shell shocked is an understatement. In Anzaldúan terms, sufrimos un arrebato that shifted the very ground we stand on.

As always, our MALCSistas moved quickly to a call for action. Nuestras colegas in charge of the “Telling to Live” plenary contacted us and urged the MALCS Executive Committee to mobilize and respond with immediate action to this act of existential aggression. Upon deliberation, the MALCS Executive Committee and the MALCS SI Site Committee agreed to seek out the expertise of scholars in our community. The attached statements, generated by Dr. Bernadine Hernández and Dr. Mellissa Linton reflect MALCS mission and our commitment to oppose this recent ruling. We are grateful to our colegas for offering important historical and scholarly context on this issue. 

In addition, the MALCS Executive Committee, in collaboration with the Colorado Site Committee, added a plenary to this year’s annual Summer Institute to provide a space of reflection, critique, and action. The plenary will take place on the last day of the Summer Institute on Saturday, August 30, 2022.

We stand in community, resistance, intellectual commitment, healing, and expressions of decolonial love.

In solidarity, 

MALCS Executive Committee

July 5, 2022
Written by Dr. Bernadine Hernández
Associate Professor of English, University of New Mexico
On behalf of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS)

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion. As Women of Color, transnational, Black and Indigenous feminists’ scholars, we are obligated to speak out on the implications of this ruling as it pertains to the members of MALCS and beyond. 

While this ruling may seem like a contemporary horrific violence perpetuated onto the bodies of Women of Color, Black women, Indigenous women, Trans and Gender non-binary people and it is, we are here to explain that this ruling is not an anomaly in American history, particularly within the long history of the Southwest borderlands and changing powers. We are not better than this. The regulation of Brown, Black, and Indigenous women’s sexuality dates to the early days of colonialism, during Westward expansion, and at the height of the U.S. empire. The overturning of Roe v. Wade means unsafe abortions for Women of Color, Black women, Indigenous women, Trans and Gender non-binary people, however, we have never been safe. From violent miscegenation at the expense of our bodies to usher in capital and money to the history of how violent sexual heteronormativity was forced upon our bodies and how that becomes unseen labor in our stained history in the United States, this ruling is catastrophic for a community that has been dealing with the control of our bodies for centuries. 

We only need to turn to history to tell us the story of bodily control for Women of Color, Black women, Indigenous women, Trans and Gender non-binary people. Sex has been a “technology of power” for centuries where it has been mobilized to control certain racialized bodies. For example, the 1857 Bustamento v. Analla case in New Mexico lays out the sexual economy that built racialized civility and sexual capital through using the Nuevo Mexicana body as a reproductive tool to create a labor force for the bosses of debt peonage in New Mexico. Another example ties sex and immigration together with the advent of criminalization and deportation of Mexican prostitutes in 1909. During 1909, Mexican women were violently pathologized and deported for having sex even if they were citizens of the United States. This began a violent trend of sexual control and violence on the borderlands that has not faltered. This history is well-documented in my recent book, Border Bodies: Racialized Sexuality, Sexual Capital, and Violence in the Nineteenth-Century Borderlands, now available through the University of North Carolina Press. 

And so, you see, the overturning of Roe v Wade is not an anomaly for Women of Color, Black women, Indigenous women, Trans and Gender non-binary people. We have been experiencing this type of bodily violence for some time now. We embody the histories of colonialism, enslavement, migration, and displacement/ dispossession. These historical legacies of sexual control and violence are tied to positions of domination and servitude. So, while the world is mourning the fact that people have lost the right to reproductive health and control over our bodies, we must ask the question: Did we ever have any power over ourselves to begin with? In this moment we must continue to organize, aid in the already intricate system of abortion care, and be visible. 

July 3, 2022 
Written by Dr. Mellissa Linton
Assistant Professor, School of Social Transformation, Arizona State University
On behalf of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS)

The Roe vs. Wade legislation in 1973 protected the constitutional right to have an abortion, yet legal and cultural scholars Dorothy Roberts, Loretta Ross and Angela Davis highlighted how “the right to choose” was selectively applied along racial and class lines. Consider the innumerable accounts since ’73 detailing how clinicians forcibly or coercively sterilized Indigenous women, Latina migrants, Black women living in poverty and impoverished, rural white women.

Nevertheless, Roe vs. Wade provided a modicum of legal security for women, however fraught its application was considering the reproductive concerns of transgender and disabled people were blatantly secondary. In an instant, this admittedly flawed legal security disappeared when the conservative supreme court outrageously overturned Roe, immediately restricting abortion rights and accessibility; it is estimated that twenty-six states will ban abortion. Further, Roe’s overturn is turning abortion into a crime, as criminal indictments against both patients and clinicians exist in more than five states.

Ultimately, overturning Roe is a class issue, as it will promote travel as the exclusive means to access abortion for rural, conservative communities, and it is simultaneously a racial issue that impacts financial family planning for not only reproductive people, but also the innumerable loved ones orbiting their lives. 

The beacon of hope beaming through this class and racially motivated tragedy is the resurrection of abortion sanctuary networks, and the re-ignition of multiple organizations in the U.S. that have worked tirelessly to protect the right for Latinas and women alike to not only choose to have an abortion, but also to raise the children we have in safe and sustainable environments as SisterSong placed at the heart of reproductive justice during its 1980s inception. 

Impact on Detained Immigrant Women and Asylum Seekers

The appendages of the Department of Homeland Security responsible for healthcare in detention have failed to provide abortion care to migrant women and have erroneously handled miscarriages. Migrants and asylum seekers are routinely denied abortion care, a critical service considering that Central American women and girls are sexually assaulted on their journey, and transgender women are at high risk of violent assault as well.  Furthermore, migrant women report medical neglect while miscarrying, ultimately resulting in fetal loss. The neglectful treatment of reproductive migrants and asylum seekers will be exacerbated as reproductive decisions are placed in the hands of I.C.E. agents.   

The overturn of Roe presents a unique opportunity to politically organize across racial, gender, class and regional difference. Let our refusal and perseverance ignite a diverse movement to protect bodily sovereignty and dignity. MALCS denounces the overturn of Roe Vs. Wade and calls on Congress to restore and protect abortion access on a federal level, and grant abortion access to federal inmates and detainees.

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