Reflecting on the SCOTUS Decision and What’s at Stake

Over the last few months, we have experienced tragedy upon tragedy. A nesting doll of death at the hands of white supremacy and patriarchy. It’s been hard to keep track and appropriately process and respond to each heartbreaking event. And now we must add yet another tragedy – the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade resulting in the loss of a fundamental constitutional protection over our bodies. Following the leak of the Supreme Court opinion, hundreds of articles have been penned expressing justified outrage about what a post Roe country looks like. We want to add to the chorus and urge funders who have traditionally watched from the sidelines, to take heed of this moment and join the fight. 

Abortion bans have always been a symptom, rather than the end goal of white supremacy, patriarchy, classism, and racism. It has been part of a larger fight to ultimately control the bodies of women, girls, trans, and gender non-conforming communities (TGNC) – with an intentional focus on keeping power away from communities of color. It is why Libra’s Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC)-led reproductive justice grantees have told us that Roe was always the floor and never the ceiling– that abortion bans are inextricably linked to anti-trans legislation, voter suppression, lack of medicaid expansion, and economic insecurity. It is why Black, Brown, and Indigenous women, youth and TGNC leaders organize to fight not only for the right to have an abortion, but for the right to have access to abortions and the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, accurate sex education in schools, voting rights in local, state, and federal elections. They have been a part of the racial justice and defund the police movement, fiercely connecting that the dismantling of Roe also means increased criminalization, surveillance and policing that will disproportionately impact poor communities of color.  

Funders- The time is now!

As we sit with the devastating news of Friday’s SCOTUS decision, we must reflect on how the philanthropic sector can move differently and meet the needs of this moment. Too often, the funding world has brushed off the reproductive justice movement as simply a women’s issue. Traditionally women’s rights funders have over prioritized abortion litigation strategies while under-investing in organizing efforts that grow the base and build long-term power. The consequences have been a grossly underfunded RJ movement, leaving leaders of color with intersectional strategies receiving little to no funding.

It’s time to think and fund differently and collectively for the world we want rather than defaulting to statements of solidarity followed by little action. It’s time to create accountability structures for ourselves and our colleagues that actually track where our funding dollars go. If funders begin to think more comprehensively about the variety of issue areas they support and recognize the interconnected nature of the systems of oppression we’re facing, we would move in alignment with affected communities and truly support their vision of liberation. 

What would it look like if:

    • Health funders treated abortion access restrictions as a public health crisis? 
    • Reproductive Rights funders saw that adopting a reproductive justice framework can repair the structural and systemic failures that Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) have endured under the majority white-led reproductive rights movement? 
    • Democracy funders realized that BIPOC-led RJ leaders have been fighting voter suppression laws and integrating civic engagement strategies throughout all of their base-building work? 
    • Criminal Justice & Safety funders saw that overturning Roe will lead to increased police violence and the criminalization of birthing people- disproportionately impacting poor communities of color? 
    • Economic security funders connected access to abortion as a critical factor for economic well-being? 
    • Education funders understood that supporting comprehensive sex education is not only supporting abortion rights, but also improving youth mental health? 
    • Youth development funders supported a robust young people’s movement that centers their leadership and vision on reproductive liberation and self-determination? 
    • Gender Equity and Justice funders saw that the fight for reproductive liberation is also the fight for LGBTQ rights and trans liberation? 
    • Immigrant Rights funders explored how abortion restrictions and the threat of criminalization further isolates undocumented folks? 
    • National funders remembered that the fight for abortion access has always started at the state and local level and that power-building organizations closest to the ground are the ones to fund to lead this work?

If you’re wondering where to begin, read Women’s Funding Network’s letter that outlines five immediate actions as a start. While this is in no way an exhaustive list of the many organizations working at the forefront of this movement, these are some of Libra’s cross-cutting partners in this work: 

Join us in breaking down the self-imposed silos of philanthropy. If your foundation operates in service of disenfranchised and historically marginalized communities in this country; if you care about the wellbeing of BIPOC communities – then this is an issue you must respond to, because it is ultimately the most economically vulnerable and politically disempowered communities in this country who are most intensely effected by abortion restrictions. 

Make no mistake –overturning Roe is part of the backlash against the racial reckoning and the multiracial, feminist democracy so many of us in philanthropy are supporting through our grantmaking, partnerships, and trust in our movement leaders.

When I think of all of the organizers in the movement that got up this morning to continue the fight, I am struck by their courage, resilience and enduring commitment to our collective liberation. As funders, we too must rise to meet this latest challenge and commit to funding this movement like our freedom depends on it, because that is exactly what’s at stake.   

Jennie Agmi is a Senior Program Officer at The Libra Foundation