Reproductive justice is in the Constitution

The 14th Amendment opens with the sentence, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States … are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside” and as such would be protected by the laws of the United States. Such language applied to infants born to Black women, changing the provisions of law that had long denied Black children citizenship and the protection of laws. Lawmakers were understandably concerned about overturning states laws that had denied children the dignity of personhood.

Justice Samuel Alito’s claim, that there is no enumeration and original meaning in the Constitution related to involuntary sexual subordination and reproduction, misreads and misunderstands American slavery, the social conditions of that enterprise and legal history. It misinterprets how slavery was abolished, ignores the deliberation and debates within Congress, and craftily renders Black women and their bondage invisible.

It is no hyperbole to say that the Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case is in league with some of the darkest rulings — Plessy v. Ferguson, which opened the floodgates to “separate but equal” laws that ushered in Jim Crow, and Buck v. Bell, which sanctioned states’ eugenics laws permitting forced sterilization of poor women.