A Matter of Health and Reproductive Justice

The Resilient Sisterhood Project (RSP) uses a cultural and social justice lens to approach the common but rarely talked about diseases of the reproductive system that disproportionately affect young and adult women of African descent. As a women led organization, RSP works in partnership with, rather than on behalf of, black women and young adults in our communities. Through ongoing work, we bring a new dimension into the public discourse of reproductive health to address racial discrimination, health and medical inequities, harsh immigration policies/practices, environmental/food injustice, mass incarceration, and other structural problems that limit access to reproductive healthcare.  We serve black women of all socioeconomic backgrounds; however, we give preference to women from disenfranchised communities, with an organizational priority on women with the least access to resources.

According to the CDC, Black women are more than four (4) times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications as white women. As noted in a joint report by ProPublica and NPR: “Put another way, a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71 percent more likely to perish from cervical cancer, but 243 percent more likely to die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes.”

What are the diseases?

These diseases include, but are not limited to:

  • Uterine fibroids

  • Endometriosis

  • Infertility

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

  • Breast, cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancers

While not considered diseases

Pregnancy

RSP brings a focus to the medical and racial implications of pregnancy as some black women can face daunting health challenges in terms of pregnancy and childbirth. The Center for Reproductive Rights notes that, “The U.S. spends at least twice as much per capita on healthcare than almost every other western industrialized country but has some of the widest disparities in health outcomes.  … Racial disparities are particularly pronounced in reproductive and sexual health. Women of color fare worse than white women in every aspect of reproductive health.”

Early Puberty

Medical researchers who have been studying the development of puberty in girls have concluded that in the Unites Stated girls are starting puberty at younger ages.  This decline in age has been noted as far back as the early 1920s and continues to accelerate, especially over the past five decades (CDC, 2010). This problem is more prevalent in low income black girls from disadvantaged communities.  A recent study reports that 23-40% of black girls between the ages of 7 and 8 years old are already experiencing early onset of puberty—through breast development and early menstrual periods.  Black parents are being told to accept this phenomenon as the new normal.

 

“Good health is a social benefit, and ill health is a social drain.”

- Patricia Smith