Reproductive Rights

Missouri Politicians Introduce “All Lives Matter” Personhood Bill

In a startling misappropriation of the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-reproductive rights politicians in Missouri started off the new year by introducing the so-called “All Lives Matter Act” – a bill designed to strengthen Missouri’s already existing personhood law.

The “All Lives Matter Act,” sponsored by Republican state Representative Mike Moon, is one of several anti-reproductive rights proposals that will be considered in the state’s 2016 legislative session. The bill would amend state law to define a fertilized egg as “a person,” and would require law enforcement officers and other state officials to “affirmatively enforce” fertilized eggs’ right to “life, liberty, or property.”

Moon’s bill is intended to strengthen a law currently on the books in Missouri that gives “unborn children” a “protectable interest in life, health, and well-being.” The existing law currently contains a provision that makes it subject to the U.S. Constitution, Roe v. Wade, and other decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, but Moon’s bill would remove this language. That Moon’s bill is likely unconstitutional has not prevented it from attracting a smattering of co-sponsors.

The “All Lives Matter Act” is also the latest in a pernicious strategy by anti-reproductive rights politicians to use black bodies to promote policies that devalue black women, their lives, and autonomy. That this bill is being introduced in Missouri, the location of the 2014 Ferguson uprising, which served as a major catalyst for a national Black Lives Matter movement, has not gone without notice.

Christine Assefa, an organizer with the St. Louis, Missouri based Organization for Black Struggle, remarked that even though “revolutionary activism . . . overwhelmed the streets in St. Louis City and Ferguson [and] energized a transnational movement around the value of Black lives[,] . . . . it is evident that racial justice in not a priority for Jefferson City’s GOP leaders.” In a guest column for the Feminist Wire, Assefa also highlighted how the “All Lives Matter Act” is an unmitigated attack on black women:

“By hijacking the prolific chant that has become the title of a movement led by a new generation of human rights activists and recontextualizing it, Rep. Moon in further marginalizing Black women,” Assefa explained. “By sponsoring this bill, Rep. Moon suggests that the state of Missouri codify into law the assertion that Black women are killing their own children, are incapable of making decisions about their own bodies, and cannot control their sexual desires. All of these characterizations perpetuate historical, violent, and harmful stereotypes of Black women that reveal the deeply-rooted relationship between race and sexual politics.”

This perverted interest in, and misuse of, black women’s reproduction is not new, but as RH Reality Check Senior Legal Analyst Imani Gandy has previously pointed out, the misappropriation of Black Lives Matter “is not only offensive, it’s ultimately hollow.” She continues, “When it comes to advocating for policies that would actually support Black women and help them raise healthy children, far too many anti-choice activists are silent.”

Media Resources: Missouri House of Representatives; RH Reality Check 1/11/16, 7/28/15; The Feminist Wire 1/7/16

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