As an African American, a civil rights lawyer, a mother, and a feminist, I view reproductive freedoms for African American women from both a personal and professional perspective. Reproductive freedoms are life and death issues for many African American women and, as such, deserve as much recognition as any other freedom. Despite the importance of reproductive freedom in the lives of African American women, traditional civil rights and women's organizations have ignored these interests. This paper grows out of a speech I delivered at the Third Annual Conference of Women of Color and the Law. I was asked to speak about "Women of Color' and Reproductive Rights." I struggled with using that title for this paper because the term "reproductive rights" is a factually and conceptually misleading term. Too often, reproductive rights are defined solely as a woman's right to an abortion. Poor women, however, do not have such a "right" in most states. Even though abortion is legal, poor women probably cannot afford one; in practice, therefore, no such "right" exists.

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