SURVEIL AND CONTROL #146

By : Grace Riah

5 min read




The coordinated stripping of reproductive health care and increasing of control over bodily autonomy by the state are methods for maintaining hierarchies of power under racial capitalism. Economic inequality, militant funding of policing, and white supremacist state violence are interconnected issues threatening reproductive freedom. In The Fabrication of the Social Order: A Critical Theory of Police Power, Mark Neocleous writes that “In bourgeois society justice has never been the primary value to which law devotes itself. The primary value to which all law has been dedicated has been order.” Abortion bans are an effective method for maintaining a white supremacist, capitalist state through its control of the physical, social, and economic freedoms of oppressed groups.

Financial, logistical, and legal obstructions make exercising one’s right to an abortion impossible in many cases. In Killing The Black Body, Dorothy Roberts writes, “Part of this constrained meaning of liberty is the view that reproductive freedom depends on wealth and social status.” Institutional obstructions like the Hyde Amendment, draconian laws, and the high cost and scarcity of abortion clinics particularly affect access to reproductive choices for low-income people, immigrants, and BIPOC. In April, a woman named Lizelle Herrera was reported to the police by hospital employees for allegedly self-managing her own abortion and her bail was set at $500,000. Although it was met, thanks to a coalition of local reproductive advocacy groups, and charges were dropped due to lack of statute, it set a dangerous precedent. Both abortion bans and the bail system are an intersection of over-policing and racial capitalism in that, by design, they target low-income people, BIPOC, and immigrants through the denial of personal autonomy, or freedom, on the basis of access to capital and proximity to whiteness.


Texas’s SB8 bill, passed in September 2021, provides an unconstitutional abortion ban after 6 weeks through its provision for civilian vigilantes to bring civil cases against abortion providers, or anyone who “aids or abets” a person seeking an abortion. The acceptance of bounty hunters and vigilantes in American law has incredibly racist origins still ingrained in the legal system today. During the Antebellum period, a law upheld by the Supreme Court called the Fugitive Slave Act further entrenched the terror of white supremacy into law in its authorization of white men to round up escaped enslaved people and “return” them to their enslavers.


Those who oppose reproductive rights and justice view women’s sexual agency and bodily autonomy as a direct threat to the nuclear family. The model of the nuclear family adheres to heteronormative gender roles that categorize men as heads of the household who protect and provide for women and children. White America’s obsession with the decay of the nuclear family is about a need to preserve a certain racialized “way of life”— one that revolves around the protection of white property and generational wealth. In order to secure reproductive justice we must fight for equal access to safe abortions, affordable contraceptives and comprehensive sex education, freedom from sexual violence, as well as the defunding and eventual abolition of the corporal apparatus of control in this white supremacist, capitalist state — the police.


— Grace Raih



Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #146 May 2022

 

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