RE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Reproductive Rights Statement

By Joia Crear-Perry, MD, FACOGNovember 03, 2021

RE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Reproductive Rights Statement

On November 1, our friends at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a statement calling “access to safe and high-quality reproductive medical care, including abortion” an “essential element of comprehensive healthcare and health equity.”

As a social and birth justice organization whose foundational work encompasses and intersects the areas of human rights, women’s rights, health equity, racial equity and reproductive rights, we at NBEC are grateful to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and its CEO Dr. Richard Besser for their recognition that the abortion bans in Texas and in Mississippi are reflective of a lack of understanding or blatant disregard for what is best, safest, and healthiest for the women and individuals making decisions about their own personal reproductive future in this country. 

It is inconceivable that nearly 50 years after the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade that we are once again having to fight to defend the rights of women to have safe, legal, quality reproductive healthcare in order to avoid returning to the days when pregnant people had to seek out unsafe and unhealthy alternatives for their reproductive needs. As noted in our own statement on these abortion bans, it is hard not to see the impact and devastating ways in which these bans jeopardize healthcare as states like Mississippi and Texas (that have some of the most restrictive abortion policies) also have the most moms and babies who die in their state. 

As a Black-woman led organization, we stand in solidarity with RWJF as it acknowledges that more often than not, it is people and families of color as well as those with lower incomes who are most significantly impacted by these bans as those with means and access have more resources to find ways to access quality healthcare – including being able to access safe abortions outside of their home states of Texas and Mississippi. 

We firmly believe that social justice requires long-term investment and funding by philanthropic organizations to these causes.

In their statement, RWJF noted that advancing health equity “…requires acknowledging and addressing all forms of discrimination that create obstacles to healthcare access. Abortion is a vital part of comprehensive reproductive healthcare and restricting access to it compromises the health of pregnant people.”

We believe that in addition to long term funding, it is equally important that other charitable organizations step up to the plate and utilize the tremendous resources, power, and influence they have to stop inequities and discriminatory practices when they see them by adding their voices to the chorus of those calling for the end of these archaic bans being placed into law.

As signaled by RWJF’s statement, it is time for those in positions of power – especially leaders in philanthropy – to stand up and say “enough is enough” and to harness their power to ensure that all people in this country continue to have access to quality healthcare – including abortions.  It is our sincere hope that RWJF’s statement is seen as a rallying cry to the leadership (CEOs, Executive Directors, Board Members, etc.) of philanthropic and charitable organizations to reflect on their commitment to health equity and to stand alongside RWJF, NBEC, and others to secure the best possible health outcomes for every individual in this country.


The National Birth Equity Collaborative (NBEC) is one of the nation’s leading experts and an advocate for change in the Black maternal health and infant mortality crises. As an organization focused on the sexual reproductive health and wellbeing of Black women and birthing people world-wide, NBEC creates global solutions that optimize Black maternal, infant, sexual, and reproductive wellbeing. We shift systems and culture through training, research, technical assistance, policy, advocacy, and community-centered collaboration. It is our belief that women and birthing people should have respectful maternity care at every stage of pregnancy and that every individual should have full and complete bodily autonomy including whether or not to have children.