It should come as no surprise that when one oppressed group is being targeted, all other oppressed groups are affected. However, it’s really easy to get so caught up in your own activism that you don’t take the time to really address those connections. It’s easy for a women’s rights activist to say: “I have to fight for reproductive justice right now; I don’t have time to worry about immigration. I’m not an immigrant; that has nothing to do with me.”
For student activists in Midwestern cities immigration reform isn’t always the first battle we choose to fight. Of course, we all understand that some decisions have to be made when it comes to issues of social justice; one person, even one organization, can’t fight them all. At the same time, it’s beyond important that we recognize how all of these issues are interconnected – the people who are attacking reproductive rights are the same people attacking immigrant rights, and they’re using the same reasons.
There have been a slew of “birthright citizenship” bills up in state legislatures recently, including one in Pennsylvania, which question the use of the 14th Amendment to give citizenship to anyone born in the United States. Proponents of this legislation insist that the 14th Amendment was never meant to be used in this way – but this is a direct hit to immigrants, especially immigrant women. Controlling the fertility of women of color is something that organizations like FAIR (the group behind AZ SB 1070) see as in the best interest of white people in power, and is based on racial stereotypes and false ideas of immigrant women’s motives. As this column says, “This is a thinly veiled attack on immigrant Latina women and on their right to reproduce.”
Currently, Republicans in Congress (and Democrats!) have launched a full-scale attack on reproductive rights with HR 3 and HR 358, and by de-funding Planned Parenthood. They are trying to control women’s reproduction – by telling them when they are and are not allowed to seek abortions, when they have or have not been raped. Attacks on birthright citizenship and attacks on reproductive rights go hand in hand – and come from fears of women’s power to create lives, beliefs that women aren’t capable of making their own choices about their fertility, and a desire to control women’s bodies.
Convinced yet? No? Well, the same arguments being used about the 14th Amendment when it comes to birthright citizenship were used by Justice Scalia – to insist that women were never meant to be protected.
If attacks on birthright citizenship are carried out without protest from the women’s movement, it creates an environment in which attacks on reproductive rights are an easy next step. Advocates of women’s rights and advocates of immigrants’ rights have to stick together – or risk losing everything we’ve been fighting for.