White Men Control Women’s Reproductive Rights -- Again

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White Men Control Women’s Reproductive Rights -- Again        

Jim Windell


                Women in the 21st century enjoy an abundance of rights; rights that in past centuries were denied to them. For 100 years they have had the right to vote. They can work in professions previously unavailable to them. For instance, they can be doctors, psychologists, CEOs, lawyers – and even Supreme Court justices. And they have control over their bodies and their reproductive rights. Or do they?

            Not according to Rodney D. Coates, Ph.D., Professor of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies at Miami University.  In fact, Coates would argue that it is white men who control women’s reproductive rights in the U.S. He goes on to point out that it was four white men, a Black man and a white woman who voted for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022. That decision removed women’s federal constitutional right to get abortions and it gave states the power to pass laws about the legality of abortion procedures. State legislatures are, by and large, run by white men – often older white men of privilege.

           Coates, writing recently in The Conversation, says that this is not the first period in U.S. history when white men have exercised control over women’s right to bear - or not bear – children. During slavery men had control over the reproductive rights of women, especially Black women. “Then, it was a matter of numbers. The more people they enslaved, the more money white male enslavers could earn either from selling the enslaved or from the forced labor of the enslaved. White men controlled people’s reproductive rights during the 20th century, too, with the American eugenics movement,” Coates writes.

           He points out that from the late 1800s until the 2000s, white proponents of eugenics – the selective breeding of people – tried to determine who was fit or unfit to have children. Although the eugenics movement affected people of various races and ethnic backgrounds, it was particularly harmful to Black women who, it has been shown from 1950 to 1966, were sterilized at a rate of three times that of white women.

           When slaver owners could no longer legally import enslaved people to the U.S. after 1808, they stepped up the forced breeding of enslaved women. White men raped the Black women and girls they controlled, and then slaved the children born from those rapes. White men also forced the Black women and Black men they held as slaves to have sex with one another to generate more babies – who would be born into slavery. This was a systemic way of ensuring that slave women bore more children – which would increase profits for slave owners.

           Rodney Coates, who is a public sociologist engaged in critical race, social justice, social movements, social policy, and practice, concludes his article by noting that white nationalists and some right-wing politicians in the U.S. see the nation’s demographic changes as dangerous. The Census Bureau projects that in the 2040s, non-Hispanic white people will no longer make up a majority of the U.S. population. This kind of projection scares racists, who believe in a conspiracy about white people being destroyed, which they label the great replacement theory because they fear losing social, political and economic power.

          One of the arguments in the anti-abortion movement is that not enough white people are being born. But, while believers in the great replacement conspiracy theory want white women to have more babies, actual anti-abortion decisions like the recent Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (which declared that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion) harms Black women more than any other group. Black women represent 39% of the country’s abortion patients, but many live in communities that have limited access to family planning clinics. And they have disproportionately higher rates of complications during pregnancy. As a result, Black women will be forced to give birth to more babies.

           This means, concludes Coates, that we live in another period in our country’s history in which the reproductive health decisions made by mostly white men will harm Black women.

           To read the original article, find it with this reference:


Coates, R. (Sept. 1, 2023). White men have controlled women’s reproductive rights throughout American history – the post-Dobbs era is no different. The Conversation.


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