The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.
Sarah Leighton is the Sierra Club Maine chapter director.
Too often, movements for social justice silo themselves into their respective issue areas. We leave environmental issues to climate groups; racial issues to civil rights organizations; poverty and economic inequality to social welfare institutions; and so forth. By doing so, we fail to acknowledge that these challenges are interconnected in profound and important ways. And we also limit our potential capacity. In this moment we must come together in solidarity.
While the leaked draft decision on the Dobbs case helped prepare me for this moment, it didn’t make the overturning of Roe v. Wade any less difficult.
I have lived an extremely privileged life. I’m a cis-gender, straight, married, white woman, with a master’s degree, living in Maine with my upper-income family. The fear I feel for myself is nothing compared to the fear experienced by marginalized communities. I am fearful for Black, Brown, and Indigenous women. I am fearful for gay, non-gender conforming people, and trans men. I am fearful for our planet. Given my privileged identities and the privilege and power of my organization, Sierra Club Maine, lifting up marginalized communities is my (and our) responsibility.
The Supreme Court decision has set us back decades. It means that anyone with a uterus does not have control over their own body. They have stolen this basic human right. It will shove more people into poverty, it will harm our planet, and people will die. When combined with the impacts of climate change this injustice is even more detrimental.
At Sierra Club Maine, we believe that all people deserve reproductive justice — what the reproductive justice organization Sister Song defines as “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
The intersections of climate change and reproductive injustice impact marginalized communities more than any other. For example, pollution makes pregnancy and fetal development riskier. In fact, pregnant people who live in communities close to oil and gas wells or chemical factories are more likely to have high-risk pregnancies, and give birth prematurely to babies who may face lifelong health and developmental challenges. These communities may not have the luxury of moving. And, now they don’t have the constitutional right to get an abortion.
Sierra Club Maine is committed to rising with our allies to mobilize against the court’s decision and ensure reproductive justice for all. We believe that every person deserves the right to live in healthy, clean, and safe communities with access to healthcare. While we are not a reproductive rights organization, we will follow the lead of and stand in solidarity with those who are. Sierra Club Maine will continue to tackle the pieces of the problem that we’re uniquely well-positioned to solve: the fact that extreme heat, pollution, and climate disasters reduce our choices around when and how we wish to raise a child. Environmental justice is reproductive justice.
Now is the time for solidarity. It’s only working together that we will be able to combat the injustices brought about by the Supreme Court’s recent decisions.