By Tibby Reas Hinderlie, Communications Manager
As stated in our posts released on the day of the decision, Breast Cancer Action is outraged at the overturning of Roe and Casey through the Supreme Court decision made in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, and the resulting evisceration of the right to abortion across the nation.
The further loss of our rights to reproductive healthcare and bodily autonomy is cruel and deeply unjust.
Like us, you may be feeling equal parts sadness and exhaustion – and rage, fury, and activation.
While standing firm in our statement of opposition to this decision, and any Supreme Court decisions or policies that keep our communities from achieving health justice, we are also releasing this full statement with the intention of demonstrating why, as an organization, we release very few position statements of this type and will continue to do so infrequently in the future.
This decision is based on three factors: the frequency of trauma, exhaustion, and organizational capacity; the exercise of power and privilege in deeming something “statement-worthy;” and our foundational focus on action over awareness.
You may have questioned why Breast Cancer Action has not already produced a statement in response to the Politico leak indicating the court’s intention to overturn Roe, or the baby formula shortage, or the Uvalde school shooting. Following these types of events, attacks, and injustices, often organizations, institutions, and corporations – including ours, though infrequently – can be seen to release responses in the form of opposition or solidarity statements.
Looking forward, if we were to continue to release a statement each time lawmakers limited our rights to healthcare or worked against health justice, and each time our communities faced deep, often racially-motivated and white supremacist injustices, our organization would have the capacity to do little more than write statements.
Even as we were preparing this statement, police murdered Jayland Walker in Akron, Ohio on June 27th, shortly after the Dobbs decision. And as we turned to posting this statement, President Biden signed an executive order claiming to protect abortion that is, at best, ineffectual, and at worst, deceptive and designed to placate. His administration doubled-down by chastising progressive organizers, reproductive justice advocates, and “some activists” calling them “consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party.”
Daily affronts to our humanity, our rights, and our healthcare present ongoing collective and individual trauma to our communities. We face them as individuals, and as employees of a health justice organization. We work tirelessly toward health justice, and despite that, we, like you, are tired.
We found resonance with The Management Center’s recent email and resource, “Surviving the Avalanche,” which the organization produced while mourning tragedies in Dallas, Buffalo, Laguna Woods, and Uvalde. As they succinctly wrote: “It’s been one thing after another. If you sometimes feel buried by it all—you are not alone.”
Our team had deep discussions about whether or not to release a statement following the Politico leak. As an organization dedicated to eliminating disparities in healthcare access as well as disparities in mortality, we know that the loss of Roe and the legal right to abortion will significantly impact those living deep within the margins, and most specifically people of color. This will intensify what BIPOC leaders in the reproductive justice landscape have spoken on for years: that many communities are already living in a post-Roe reality given the inequitable barriers to access. Abortion activists and thought leaders have been saying loudly and clearly that Roe is not the gold standard of abortion rights, that it was the floor; and even when in place, people of color, poor people, rural people, and young people were already operating from within abortion deserts across the country.
As a grassroots organization, we do not have capacity to recreate our foundational health justice values each time health justice is threatened—which, as we are witnessing, is happening constantly, if not daily, in the form of attacks on people, families, and communities.
In a beautiful statement made in 2021 by the Abortion Care Network (ACN) entitled “Reimagine and Shape a Different World,” ACN wrote that some people turn to solidarity statements to learn about the values of the authoring organization. As the breast cancer movement watchdog, Breast Cancer Action is deeply committed to this type of accountability and transparency from corporations and government bodies, but we do not feel that the health justice values of a health justice organization like ourselves need to be rewritten and re-publicized following the near-daily attacks on our rights, bodies, and futures. When our communities rightly push corporations to put out statements following injustices, it is often for the purpose listed by ACN – to learn the values of that corporation (can be read as: capitalist corporation), given that silence in the face of injustice can look and feel like acquiescence or approval of the status quo. Health justice is woven into the fabric of our organization. In the aftermath of tragedies, injustices, and the further decimation of rights at the hands of people with political power, corporate leaders, policy makers, and domestic terrorists, the health justice values that will guide our responses continue to be bold, clear, and unchanging.
For those looking to learn more about the values that inform our work done in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we point readers to our permanent pages on Universal Healthcare, Inequities and Social Justice, and our Mission, Vision, and Values.
Choosing which injustices to make (or not make) statements about is a way of enacting power.
When grappling with whether or not to write a statement on the SCOTUS leak, and how to express our collective rage, opposition, and recommitment to bigger, bolder, more inclusive and impactful health justice programming, our team spent time reflecting on, and drawing connections to, the racist murder of 10 people in Buffalo, that occurred 11 days later.
We cannot be selective about which headlines we respond to, without insinuating one incident is important while another is not. Choosing which tragedies to warrant statements is rooted in whiteness, privilege, and power.
Though policy on abortion is a more direct example of health justice, what is the point of our tireless work to end breast cancer disparities, including the disproportionate rate at which Black women are diagnosed with and die from breast cancer, if, as illustrated by the Buffalo shooting, these same Black women leave their breast cancer screenings, or their treatment appointments, only to be shot and killed? How can we collectively, as a breast cancer movement, focus solely on research, treatment, and care, without recognizing and challenging the hate, systemic inequities, and racism faced by so many different communities, when our lives and existence are threatened every day?
Organizations might also put out statements related to injustices and attacks, with the goal of raising awareness of that loss and the underlying issues (racism, sexism, xenophobia, gun culture) that result in the outcomes with which we are grappling.
Breast Cancer Action is, at our core, an organization dedicated to ACTION rather than awareness. We will not be dedicating time to continuing to raise awareness about what so many of us know too well: a patriarchal, white supremacist, capitalist state will continue to work to dismantle our rights to equitable healthcare including abortion, and will continue to perpetuate a culture of violence directed at people of color and womxn.
Despite this heartbreaking reality, we are stronger. All womxn, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, and those working toward justice, are the majority. We will continue to work toward equity and our mutual liberation, and we will win.
Instead of raising awareness, we will continue to lean into our efforts to organize and mobilize our base, community of supporters, advocates, allies, partners, and public health and medical professionals to build collective power and demand change.
In moments of crisis like these, you will find us working even harder on our ongoing and unchanging efforts to achieve health justice.
Join us – let’s work together.
At BCAction, writing and the accompanying brainstorming is always collaborative. This piece was augmented by Executive Director KR, Program Manager Jayla Burton, and Program Officer Zoë Christopher.