By Jamala Rogers
The Mississippi case now before the U.S. Supreme Court challenges Roe v. Wade in the harshest terms ever and before a conservative court with justices hostile to the current law of the land.
The fact that the last two assaults on a woman’s constitutional right to choose have come from Southern states only dredges up an ugly past where Black women had absolutely no power over their bodies.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization comes on the heels of two Texas laws recently passed that further restrict a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. One bans abortion after seven weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. It also made it a crime to send abortion-inducing medication through the mail.
It should come as no surprise that it is a white man bringing the lawsuit on behalf of Mississippi to bring down Roe v. Wade.
Thomas Dobbs is the state health officer at the Department of Health. He’s backed up by Governor Tate Reeves, who has already publicly stated many times that “there’s no guaranteed right to an abortion” in the U.S. Constitution. Either Reeves doesn’t know the Constitution or exerts the continuum of racist rogue governance despite the law — or both.
And what is the Jackson Women’s Health Organization? It is the sole provider of abortions in the entire state. It has been a target of vandalism, incessant lawsuits, and death threats. It is located in Jackson, a predominantly Black city.
Mississippi’s long and brutal history of disregarding the rights and liberties of Black folks is well documented. The state is a leader in recorded lynchings in the U.S., including the most infamous and heinous murder of young Emmitt Till in 1955.
According to Jill Jefferson, founder of Julian, a civil rights organization, lynchings in Mississippi have never stopped.
“The evil bastards just stopped taking photographs and passing them around like baseball cards,” Jefferson said.
When it came to Black folks’ struggle for voting rights and public accommodations, we were met with vicious attacks. The schoolhouse became the battleground to preserve white supremacy and deny African Americans their fundamental human rights to education. Mississippi mooned Brown v. Kansas Board of Education and continued its hyper segregation in education on all levels.
James Meredith risked his life to enroll in the University of Mississippi, resulting in the Ole Miss riot of 1962. It was only a few years ago Cleveland Central High School desegregated after years of wasting taxpayers’ dollars on litigation. In many other towns, white supremacy is still the order of the day regardless of the law.
Mississippi has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. Despite this and racial health disparities, the state has refused Medicaid Expansion. Doing so would give more than 200,000 people healthcare coverage and save the state about $800,000 million in the first two years due to funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. This white, patriarchal government has never been interested in the health and well-being of all its citizens.
Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization may seem like it’s about abortion on the surface. Below that racist surface is the unrelenting challenge to equality, justice, and democracy by a system of white, racist oppression that is prepared to fight to the death to preserve its legacy. Women’s bodies are just the latest battleground.