February is Black History Month — a time to celebrate the brilliance, beauty and accomplishments of Black people. As the past year has dramatically illustrated, Black communities, and Black women in particular, are the backbone of justice and social change.
Throughout U.S. history, Black women have nurtured families — often not our own — organized communities, led social movements and re-imagined fields like the arts and sciences. Black women’s influence radiates in every corner of American culture.
Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette knows that in the tireless effort to survive and care for ourselves, our families and our communities, Black women seldom get the support we deserve. PPCW is proud to provide the health care, education and resources that Black women need to thrive, while recognizing Black women’s heritage, achievements and future.
As reproductive justice leaders have said for years, racism is a public health crisis in our country. From targeted voter suppression to state-sanctioned violence by police, Black people consistently overcome unnecessary barriers rooted in white supremacy to keep ourselves and our communities safe.
Because of centuries of deeply entrenched institutional discrimination, bias of medical providers and economic inequality, the Black community already faces limited access to health care and a heightened risk of health complications. This has resulted in disparities in sexual and reproductive health outcomes.
According to the latest data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women. And recent data show that Black Americans are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 due to medical racism and structural barriers to testing and receiving care.
The COVID-19 pandemic and maternal health crisis have shown us how deadly structural racism is to our health. For Black women, becoming a mother shouldn’t be a life-or-death decision. We need maternal health care that is compassionate, comprehensive and unbiased — and we need policies that address the urgency to save our lives.
In addition, PPCW is horrified by last month’s violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by white supremacists. This insurrection was the extension of a pattern seen across the country, as state legislatures have been threatened by paramilitaries and anti-democratic groups often aligned with white nationalist movements.
The stark difference in how police treated armed domestic terrorists storming the U.S. Capitol compared with the brutal treatment of peaceful protesters demonstrating against the murder of Black people cannot be ignored. Those protesting racial injustice this past summer were met with a militarized police force, mass arrests and tear gas.
Let’s be clear: White supremacy is terrorism. These violent assaults on our democracy cannot be tolerated, and we cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated.
This Black History Month, PPCW recommits to work with Black-led organizations and elected leaders to advocate for Black communities and promote equity, especially within our healthcare system. The Biden-Harris administration has taken the first steps to rescind the global gag rule, which harms Black and Brown women most, and now it must follow through with its campaign promises for sexual and reproductive health.
Health equity is at the center of Planned Parenthood’s mission. Our first priority is, and always will be, the health and safety of our patients. We strive to see, hear and learn from Black women as a care provider and educator they can trust — no matter what.