By: May Boeve, Executive Director, 350 Action, and Kabira Stokes, Climate Activist and Recycling Entrepreneur
Following the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision regarding Roe v. Wade, you asked (and answered) a question on the Senate floor comparing women’s bodily sovereignty and the eggs of endangered species: “Why do we have laws in place that protect the eggs of a sea turtle or the eggs of eagles? Because when you destroy an egg, you’re killing a preborn baby sea turtle or a preborn baby eagle.” As two women, mothers, and longtime members of the climate justice movement, we wanted to provide you with a few additional answers to your poignant query.
But first, some gratitude! We appreciate you bringing the man-made destruction of our planet into the debate around reproductive justice. As we all know, the reason that we protect the eggs of our reptile and feathered friends is because their ecosystems have been so damaged by the actions of humans that their ability to survive has been threatened.
Of course, human habitats are also being destroyed, with a disproportionate impact on Black and indigenous communities, and other people of color who continuously bear the disproportionate weight of environmental injustices. They are the same populations who will feel the full blow of injustice should Roe v. Wade be overturned. In the regions where coal plants are built and toxins are poured into rivers, women without access to the healthcare and the choices they need will die. As white women living in prosperous neighborhoods in New York and San Francisco, we presume that we and our children will live in cleaner environments and will always have access to safe abortion, because our state leaders will fight for it (and we are grateful they will). But that doesn’t look like justice to us.
We know that while some lawmakers are earnest in their anti-abortion beliefs, many pick these fights to create rifts in the electorate. Overturning Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision supported by 69 percent of the population, would distract us from our nation’s largest and most urgent opportunity to protect life: the quest for climate justice and an end to ecosystem destruction. Having to fight to defend a decades-old legal precedent at this critical time for our biosphere is not a welcome distraction, though we know that it is the work that we must step out of our lane to do. But this gross overreach into the profoundly personal domain of women’s pregnancies, miscarriages, abortion, and health is forcing an often patriarchal climate movement to look at abortion, to look at women. It is forcing all of us to see what this new Supreme Court is capable of and to know that a Court that will not defend the rights of women will never hold oil companies liable for climate change. Until now, many people have been able to ignore the link between the reproductive and climate justice movements. Your crusade could help change that.
The connection between abortion rights and climate justice is clear: the movement for a healthy planet depends on democratic systems that uphold justice. That includes environmental justice, racial justice, economic justice — and yes — reproductive justice. An emboldened Supreme Court that rules for the interests of the minority is not a Supreme Court we can trust to protect the rights of most of us — including the right to clean air, clean water, and a safe and stable climate.
Senator, what you miss when you ask why we have laws in place to protect endangered species’ eggs is that our work to create the new policies and practices required for a livable future on our planet include those that protect natural habitats of all species — including humans. Our work is also, now more than ever, to include protections for the rights and sovereignties of all human beings on this planet — regardless of gender, race, class, ability, sexuality or nationality. We aren’t only dedicated to climate, we are dedicated to justice. For all species. All humans.
We don’t know what future you seek to build, because Republican policies time and again strip away environmental protections for people along with those for animals such as sea turtles and eagles. We know the future we are fighting for: it’s one where our entire ecosystem thrives and where a woman, should she have to make the weighty decision to have an abortion, is supported and free to do so. That right is part of a thriving ecosystem.
In the 1950s, because of human impact, there were fewer than 1000 bald eagles left on our planet. They spent over half a century on the endangered species list, and were finally removed in 2007, because people had joined together to turn the tide. It took generations of work by people who wouldn’t give up. We won’t give up either, because we know that in our country in the 1960s, nearly one in five maternal deaths were caused by illegal abortions. We have no desire to be put on the endangered species list. We will not go back.
May Boeve, Executive Director, 350 Action, and Kabira Stokes, Climate Activist and Recycling Entrepreneur