In the recent past, we have seen a disturbing trend. Legislators at federal and state levels are exerting their influence across the country and in our region to create roadblocks to accessibility, impeding the civil liberties of minoritized people. Instead of using the positions that have been granted to them by the people to honor the inherent dignity of us all, they have used their positions to disparage it. Many would have you believe these matters are insular, when in fact they impact each and every one of us. It is not simply just about gender, sex, and race. It’s about our collective humanity and well-being.
For the past 14 months the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) has been tactically rolling back legal protections for the right to provide access to reproductive healthcare, setting discriminatory precedent targeting the LGBTQ+ community, and gutting affirmative action effectively ending race-conscious admission programs in colleges and universities with broader implications on the horizon.
These rulings have compounding impact on the Black community and young people in their most formative years. It is essential that we acknowledge the initial and rippling impact of these recent rulings.
In the wake of the Supreme Court decisions, state legislatures across the country, as seen in Missouri, are rushing to further restrict access to healthcare and pass discriminatory laws targeting minoritized people.
For example, in June 2022 Missouri was one of the first states within 24 hours of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision to severely restrict access to abortion absent of a medical emergency. And this is about so much more than abortion rights. The variability in the standard of care is jeopardizing maternal health where traumatic experiences including miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and other complications are now being scrutinized, postponed, even denied.
Then, this past June Missouri’s governor signed into law bans on gender-affirming medical care for minors and trans athletes in women’s sports. Both laws will become effective later this month. In addition to denying access to care for youth and families, these actions diminish the rights of parents to make decisions in context of their child’s unique lived experience while also exacerbating a dire youth mental health crisis where suicidal ideation is on the rise among LGBTQ+ youth. It is each of our inherit birthrights, to live freely, joyfully, and wholly and to be embraced, respected, and cherished for who we are. We have the responsibility to recognize and respond to hate while protecting the rights, lives, and dreams of the LGBTQ+ community. A vibrant democracy and a just society depend on it.
With the Supreme Court’s recent decision on affirmative action, as has been the trend, in every arena in society there will be future attempts to roll back laws and policies designed to ensure historically marginalized and excluded people have equitable access to educational, employment, and generational wealth-building opportunities. This decision is reckless and disregards the truth of America’s history–the country was built on the foundation of systemic racism and dominance, fueled by a gross mischaracterization of the Christian faith.
The consequences will be immediate and reverberating, as past evidence has shown, with some colleges, universities, and graduate and professional schools admitting fewer Black and Brown students leading to a less representative community of students and ultimately a less representative workforce. This matters most when representation (or the lack thereof) influences the outcome of a life-or-death situation.
This decision attempts to chill and choke racial equity and inclusion efforts in the public and private sector alike – from corporations to not-for-profit organizations to philanthropic organizations. If left up to those who have a pre-civil war vision of (North) America, it will cause some to lead with a fear-based response to sunset anti-racism resolutions and commitments to racial equity made following the murder of George Floyd. It will exacerbate health disparities and will move us further from achieving health justice for all – every single one of us.
I’m glad to know with conviction that we hold a bold and inclusive vision for this country. Despite the barrage of attacks and reversals, we will persist and win.
We see this persistence demonstrated in the coalition of faith leaders who are suing Missouri to challenge its abortion bans and restrictions on the basis of religious freedom. We see lawmakers in states like Illinois extending legal protections and increasing access for those seeking reproductive healthcare and gender-affirming care.
We are at a turning point. Which (North) America will we, our children, and our children’s children live in?
Deaconess Foundation side-by-side with our funded and community partners are covenanted to sharpen our advocacy for health, racial, and social justice toward our vision of (North) America. We honor and cherish the inherent worth and dignity of every person and work to protect the rights of every person to live fully and freely in our democracy. And, we are committed, more than ever to using our platforms, resources, and power to build an inclusive society where opportunities and resources are equitably accessible for those who need us most.
Fighting the good fight of faith with you,
Rev. Bethany Johnson-Javois
President & CEO