By: Kevin Xavier Garcia-Galindo’24 (he/him), Staff Writer
On Friday, February 26th, Loretta J. Ross, Visiting Associate Professor of the study of Women and Gender at Smith College, hosted an event on reproductive futurism.
The event was sponsored by the Africana Studies Department and co-hosted by Dr. Takiyah Harper-Shipman. The event centered around a lecture and conversation with Professor Ross on her contributions to the space of Black feminism and reproductive justice.
As one of the co-founders of the theory on reproductive justice as well as SisterSong, a national center for teaching about reproductive justice, she has worked as an activist for women’s rights for more than 40 years. Starting in 1974 while working in the first rape crisis center in the country, she became passionate about civil rights, reproductive justice, white supremacy, and intersectional organizing.
In defining reproductive futurism during the lecture, she called the theory, “a Black feminist theory of reproductive science and technology that prioritizes Black women’s reproductive experiences to examine what is called ‘techno utopianism’ […] the over-promise by the purveyors of reproductive technology that it will be the problem solving […] way of the future.”
As a reproductive scientist, Prof. Ross holds a more skeptical view and fears what the future could hold for women of color if reproductive justice is not protected.
Her research focuses largely on the effect that white supremacy has and will have on the movement as a consequence of heightening attacks on affordable and safe access to abortion and contraception. Catering to this side of the argument is not the method we should choose, she argued as she highlighted President Clinton’s attempt to do so during his presidency when he omitted reproductive healthcare from his healthcare reform to try to please the Republican party. The outcome of this compromise, she emphasized, should be something we all should have expected due to how absolutely no Republicans switched over to support the bill.
“Reproductive healthcare is the number one driver of women to the doctor,” she said. Moreover, the issue of abortion and access to contraception has often been weaponized in order to hurt minority populations. This weaponization has often happened under the influence of white supremacy such as in the over-promotion of contraception to Black women to the forced sterilization of women at the border. Adjacent to this is also the spread of conspiracy theories like those of future white genocide and the great replacement which serve to create paranoia around a potential future without a “pure white race.”
It is policies and theories that serve to advance the racist use of what Professor Ross calls necro-politics, a term coined by Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe that describes the use of social and political power to dictate how people live and die. This is why she firmly believes that “white supremacy and democracy are non-compatible.”
Counter-theories like those of reproductive individualism continue to prop up as responses to the kind of movement that Professor Ross proposes. The tenets of such theories appear in favor of individual choice, but in reality form distinctions between the good and the bad reproductive choice makers in order to punish those who do not conform to the traditional definition of good reproductive choice.
Resisting these standards and giving reproductive freedom to women is the central aim of reproductive justice. Valeria Donoso ‘22, who attended the event on Friday, reflected, “I learned about how to better identify these manipulative actions within implicit propaganda and how reproductive healthcare policies are used to prevent white genocide paranoia.”