TaKeia N. Anthony, Ph.D., Executive Director A. Philip Randolph Social Justice, Law, and Economic Policy Institute, Edward Waters University

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Jacksonville, Florida on May 1, 2024, to host a Reproductive Freedom Rally.1 This rally was in response to Florida’s six-week abortion ban, which took effect on the same day as VP Harris’ arrival. Hundreds of Reproductive Freedom supporters packed into a conference room at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center to see Harris and hear her message. Prior to her speech, there were several other demands for the “government to stay out of women’s reproductive business,” by speeches from Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan, Florida House of Representative Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, and Florida State Senator Tracie Davis, who shared her own abortion story.

Harris’ message was a clarion call to “fight back at the polls in November, because reproductive rights will be on the ballot.” Like the previous speakers, Harris also demanded that “government get out of women’s reproductive business.” She contextualized this moment in history by noting that the former President, Donald Trump, appointed the Supreme Court justices who assisted in the overturn of Roe vs Wade.

She added, “he takes credit and brags about overturning Roe vs Wade. Are you going to allow this? Why would you vote for someone who would take your reproductive freedoms away?”

Harris aimed to demonstrate to the crowd that former President Trump would continue to remove rights by stating, “Do not fall for his rhetoric. In the words of the great Maya Angelou ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.’”

Although the rally was very energizing, with Edward Waters University Triple Threat Band bringing the Historical Black College and University (HBCU) ambience, it is imperative to understand the detriments of Florida’s six-week abortion ban for some and the survival tactic that it represents to others. Now that the six-week ban is in effect, it is a felony in Florida to perform and actively participate in an abortion after six weeks’ gestation, which is only two weeks after a missed menstrual cycle. VP Harris argued at the rally that most women are not aware that they are pregnant this early. The ban, however, has exceptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking for up to 15 weeks. Florida’s six-week ban makes it nearly impossible to have an abortion in the state, which forces women to remain pregnant and give birth. This undoubtedly strips away women’s reproductive freedom.

Florida’s six-week ban not only affects the sunshine state but also affects the southern region. Prior to May 1, 2024, Florida was the only state in the deep south where women could get an abortion after the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. The only southern states where abortions are legal are Mayland and Virginia.

The latter, however, bans abortions after 26 weeks, six days of pregnancy; the former has no restrictions. North Carolina has a twelve-week ban where South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida have a six-week ban. All other southern states have an abortion ban.

Therefore, women in the south, with the exception of those in Maryland and Virginia, are banned from abortion or must get one before the six- or twelve-week gestational limit. This attack on reproductive freedom largely effects women and families in poverty or at a lower socio-economic status, because these women cannot afford to travel for an abortion.

Historically, Florida as a place of freedom or refuge is not anomalous. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Spanish Florida was a place of freedom or refuge to enslaved Africans who escaped south from British plantations. Similarly, in 2023, more than 9,300 women traveled to Florida for reproductive freedom via abortion care, according to an NBC News article. These out of state abortions counted for 11% of the state’s total abortion procedures that year. Florida’s vacillating position with freedom, nonetheless, is also not uncommon. It eventually became a slave state and the freedom or refuge that Africans and their descendants once obtained vanished. The six- week ban equivalently omits reproductive freedom not only in Florida but in the south.

May 1, 2024, is also seen as a date of victory, particularly to white supremist. According to the late psychiatrist Dr. Frances Cress Welsing, “racism is the most powerful dynamic on the planet.”2 The concept of race, the creation of whiteness, and the survival of those who identify as white are the catalysts of the current attacks on numerous rights, specifically reproductive freedoms. Scientifically, it is proven that melanin is dominant and white genes are recessive. Meaning that if a person with melanin and a person without melanin reproduce, the child will be melanated. If done enough times, the whiteness will be erased. This can lead to the extinction of those who identify as white. Reports from the 2010 census projected that whites would be a minority in the United States by 2043. However, some argue, with the current open boarder, whites could be a minority in the United States earlier than 2043.

How does the possible extinction or minority of whites relate to reproductive freedom? If women, particularly those who identify as white, are able to abort their fetus’ how will the white race reproduce? The ban on abortion is the first step to the survival of whiteness. Harris stated at the rally that the attack on reproductive freedom is only the beginning. She rhetorically asked the crowd, what’s next? Making the point that if the government will strip away reproductive rights, what other rights will they attack and take away? Those who lived through the Jim Crow era or understand history can predict what’s next. For the purposes of this article, with the understanding of white survival, the next step is to ban interracial marriage, then seek to revert to segregation. One of the white supremist main arguments against integration in the 1950s and ‘60s was the sexual mixing of the races which would cause a browning of the nation. Nonetheless, Florida’s six week ban and the anti-abortion movement of the south, with the exception of Maryland and Virginia, align with this white supremacy playbook. Again, it is the first step to the survival of whiteness, which maintains racism.

As some are upset with the six-week ban in Florida that took effect on May 1, 2024, some see this as a victory. Both sides, however, are being encouraged to battle it out at the polls in November.

¹ Reproductive freedom is defined as access to abortion, birth control, paid parental leave, and protections from Pregnancy discrimination. https://reproductivefreedomforall.org/about/, accessed May 2, 2024.

² https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPUqQ0k5gr8, accessed May 2, 2024.