• Kimberly Navarro, CNM, WHNP-BC

Reproductive Justice and Racial Injustice

Updated: May 12, 2021

In 1970, James Baldwin stated in a letter to Angela Davis, while she was on trial, “We live in an age where staying silent is not only criminal, but suicidal.” It is criminal to stay silent to racial injustices because it makes us complicit in perpetuating a harm against innocent people. Reproductive Justice means freedom to live a dignified, healthy and safe life, with access to resources and good quality health care that contributes to the best possible life experience one can have; free of discrimination, racism, violent acts, coercion and cruelty. Unfortunately, in this nation, that has not been an achievable goal for many Black women and women of color. Assaults on the reproductive justice of Black women and Indigenous women has been particularly severe given the history of slavery and colonialism. The history of racial injustice begins with our country’s inception, when slave masters manipulated and capitalized on the reproduction of Black women for profit from the work of enslaved people; ultimately using the wombs of Black women as the engine to fuel the nation’s economy. Racial injustices have been propelled by laws and policies that govern the reproduction of women and eliminated Black midwives, who have been historically been entrusted to birth work and the care for Black women, indigenous women, immigrant women and women of color. As a direct result of long term, effective strategic tactics embedded within healthcare organizations, academia, laws and policies that aimed to suppresses and eliminate Black bodies, Black midwives, Indigenous midwives and midwives of color, today, we suffer the

consequences of healthcare racial disparities, a progressively worsening maternal mortality rate that is disproportionately affecting Black women, and a nurse midwifery workforce is over 90 % white. The lack of diversity in the nurse midwifery workforce is not only detrimental to the legacy of trust and quality of care that Black Grand midwives upheld, but to the health and well- being of the communities they served. To stay silence to these issues of racial injustice is criminal and suicidal, because like me, there are many other Black women, and women of color who are qualified and competent, yet have found it nearly impossible to have a career in midwifery and serve the women they are called to serve. So, I ask that we all continue to make noise about injustices and advocate for laws that aim dismantle system racism within the healthcare system and support equitable healthcare that specifically cater to the needs of those who are most vulnerable, Black women, indigenous women and women of color. Speech by Kimberly Navarro, RN, CNM, WHNP-BC California

Coalition of Reproductive Freedom Week Kickoff Event on March 25, 2021

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