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The Reproductive Justice and defunding the police movements have intersecting interests: Resisting police violence and the criminalization of marginalized communities

August 30, 2022

Two weeks ago, I read an excellent piece posted on the Jacobin website, entitled, Bigger Police Budgets Could Be Used for Abortion Crackdowns. The article is essentially arguing that the Democratic Party’s decision to support more funding for cops and abortion rights is inherently problematic. Once anti-abortion laws are put into place in many states, police departments will be called upon to enforce anti-abortion laws, thus targeting the very people that the Democrats claim they want to defend.

In thinking about the clash between being pro-police and pro-abortion, I came across a new brief published by the group Interrupting Criminalization, Abortion Decriminalization is Part of the Larger Struggle Against Policing and Criminalization. This important publication begins with the following overview: 

The expanding surveillance and criminalization of mutual aid, self-managed care, and bodily autonomy, and the growing attempts to criminalize pregnant people, parents, and health care providers have far-reaching ramifications beyond abortion criminalization that require us to join together to collectively resist! 

Hundreds of restrictive bills have been proposed, many passed, including the Texas law (SB8) that not only bans abortion after six weeks, but deputizes civilians to police each other’s reproductive decisions. Such laws are just the latest examples in a long history of criminalizing bodily autonomy, especially for Black, Indigenous, migrant, disabled, queer, and trans people, and people with low incomes who will experience the harshest impacts of anti-abortion legislation. 

This important brief gets us to look at how the movement to defund policing and the movement to defend access to abortion intersect. In fact, these issues intersect in two ways. First, both issues deal with the carceral system of criminalization and policing. Second, both defunding police and defending abortion access disproportionately impact BIPOC communities, migrant communities, disabled communities, and trans and queer communities. 

The Interrupting Criminalization document then goes on to say: 

Organizers and advocates sometimes fail to consider the criminalization
of abortion and reproductive care within larger campaigns against the violence of policing and criminalization. Similarly, organizers sometimes exceptionalize expanding restrictions on abortion and reproductive care as a new or unique type of criminalization, rather than understanding them as a part of a larger we
b. 

It is important to broaden and deepen our collective analysis of the culture of punishment that makes such criminalizing legislation possible, following the lead of Black and Indigenous women, women of color, and trans reproductive justice activists who have made critical connections between multiple movements. Solidarity among anti-criminalization and reproductive justice organizers is essential to dismantle the culture of carcerality and control, and to prevent more laws targeting people existing at precarious intersections of race, gender, sexuality, disability, class and migration. Communities organizing for gender justice, migrant justice, economic and racial justice, sex workers’ rights, disability justice, and other movements for liberation should view abortion criminalization as a site of shared struggle. 

Imagine what it would look like for those involved in the fight to defund the GRPD and those fighting to demand that abortion should be legal and accessible to all? How would this alliance impact the work of each movement, and how would it make these movements stronger if they saw the benefit of collaborating to combat policing in all of its manifestations?

Lastly, the Interrupting Criminalization publication provides three overarching strategies to resist the criminalization of reproductive autonomy: 

  • Amplify and lift up the history, framing and demands of the Reproductive Justice (RJ) movement, and an intersectional framework that extends beyond “choice.” 
  • Divest from mechanisms and sites that criminalize reproductive autonomy; Invest in affirming care, bodily autonomy and reproductive justice. 
  • Destigmatize abortion. 

Criminalization of abortion providers, abortion seekers, and their communities does nothing to prevent unplanned pregnancy. Organizing for full decriminalization is the only way forward, while we continue the grassroots work to build and strengthen our capacity for mutual aid and communities of care. Another World is Possible!

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