In the realm where arts leadership intersects with reproductive rights, Anna D. Smith has emerged as a powerful force, determined to shed light on a crucial issue. At the forefront of her advocacy is the urgent deadline of December 31, a deadline that looms for California women prisoners who were forcibly sterilized. These women have the opportunity to apply for $7.5 million in reparations, a vital step towards acknowledging past injustices. This transformative initiative was authorized in 2021, but its roots trace back to the eye-opening documentary, “Belly of the Beast,” directed by Erika Cohn, which unveiled the history of forced sterilizations in California’s prisons in 2020. 🗓️
Anna, known as a fine art broker, is not just an observer in this struggle for justice. She has taken an active role in raising awareness and supporting those affected. Her client, C-Note, often referred to as the world’s most prolific prison artist, was one of the first to use art as a powerful medium to bring attention to this dire situation even before reparations became a reality. The photograph from 2021 captures Anna at the headquarters of the California Coalition of Women Prisoners, an organization deeply moved by C-Note’s poignant artwork titled “Today We Are Sisters.” Touched by their dedication and commitment to this cause, Anna presented them with the very woodblock used for the creation of this stirring artwork.
Anna’s dedication to volunteerism extends back in time, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to social causes. She served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the Santa Clara County Superior Court at the turn of the millennium. Her involvement also extended to organizations like the Bill Wilson Center and Larkin Youth Services in San Francisco, CA. Remarkably, even in the early ’90s, Anna was a trailblazer, providing childcare leave for her employees when such policies were far from mainstream.
💪Exemplifying her passion, Smith wrote me a message, “Fuck Stanford University and Newsom and the Supreme Court too! It’s too short of a time to claim and notify them to claim the measly amount for forcing a woman to lose her reproductive rights.”
In honor of Anna D. Smith’s inspirational spirit and her tireless efforts to raise awareness for reparations, it’s essential to broaden the conversation. In article, we’ll hear from artists who are equally passionate about this issue, and explore their perspectives on bodily autonomy for all. As we delve into these voices from the artistic community, we gain valuable insights into the intersection of arts, advocacy, and the profound importance of reproductive rights, as abortion is on the ballot in several states this year including Ohio, Florida, Washington and Pennsylvania. Let’s hear from some artists about what they think about the issue and bodily autonomy for all.
🎨 Artists Respond: Why is bodily autonomy important to all?
“[My] Activism posters are a byproduct of my frustration stemming from what I consider to be unjust. In this case, it’s (the lack of consistent) reproductive freedom around the country. The right to choose has been an important concern of mine for quite some time, ever since when I researched and wrote my senior thesis on the restrictive measures states have been putting in place since the early 2000s. That was back in 2008.
After graduation, I worked at an OB GYN clinic in Brooklyn, New York, where I personally gained a deeper understanding of why reproductive rights are vital to social equality, personal freedom, financial freedom, family planning, healthcare (including mental health), and even climate change. That understanding had a profound influence on me and sparked my activism as well as my activism posters.
As a citizen of a country that was built on principles of self determination and the concept of inalienable rights, I believe that forced sterilization has no place here, or anywhere for that matter. The details surrounding this particular case also reveal the financial considerations, profiling, gender discrimination and racial biases that played a part in who the victims of sterilization were, which is unlawful, unethical, and ultimately depraved. Reparations are simply a symbol of accountability and an acknowledgement of the state’s violation of bodily autonomy as well as systemic injustice.“ – Liz Publika, https://www.behance.net/lizpublika
“I am outraged by the Republicans’ efforts to make abortion illegal everywhere. Without reproductive freedom, heterosexual women — and men — are not free to live our lives unencumbered by the fear of an unwanted pregnancy. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, I marched with thousands of others for legal, safe abortions. I had an abortion in 1976; thanks to Roe v. Wade, my abortion was legal and not life-risking. And I’ve never regretted it.
“I believe it is the fundamental right of all women and girls to make decisions about her/their own bodies!” – Amy Chaiklin
“There is no greater human power than the ability to create life, decide when life happens, or to prohibit it altogether. That is why people [i.e., men] try to take away reproductive rights so often and force menstruating bodies to do their bidding…and why the history of violent inventions and interaction belongs to them as well. Human history shows how they have always tried to take, create, and control the power of life, but that true power is only intrinsic to menstruating bodies. Let my artworks stand as a reminder of that power those bodies possess and the autonomy they deserve. No one should stand in the way of it. Only those who are born with it, should control it.” – Katrina Majkut, https://www.katrinamajkut.com/
“The decision when or whether to become a mother is the most personal, life-altering, healthcare decision there is. The person with the uterus must have full access to healthcare, education and bodily autonomy to make this decision. No government or authority should have the right to decide you must become a mother, nor should any entity have the right to make it so you will never become a mother. Your Body, Your Decision. And, if you live in Ohio, VOTE YES on ISSUE ONE this November…the Reproductive Rights Amendment.” – Judy Takács -https://judytakacs.com/Judy Takács
“Motherhood Dreams She Holds Dear is her personal journey to fuel her heart and soul. Her body belongs to her to do as she sees fit and nobody’s business!” – Adeola Davies-Aiyeloja, https://www.adeolastudio.org/
“As a female born in the early 1950’s the decision whether to bear a child was not limited to abstinence or dictated by legislature. The US Supreme Court decision in 1973, Roe v Wade, lead to a wide range of personal choices and methods. Along came Dobbs v Jackson in 2022 and an individual’s freedom to make personal decisions were hindered. I immediately responded in the way I know best. Using traditional hand hooking, a technique used for decades to chronicle social issues and advocate, Jane S. Choice was designed and completed within a month. Working on this project laboriously pulling each loop into place allowed me to process my emotions. How the message would be received when completed is up to the viewer. The shape, textural materials and coloring were selected to depict a headstone. Yet the verse leaves the viewer with a loud active message “She will rise again”.
The work has been accepted in two regional exhibits and shared through social media networks. I believe working with traditional handcrafts as an Appalachian artist the visual work carries weight without my marching in metropolitan streets. Reproductive justice is wide reaching. This particular element – the right to choose to carry a child – I believe IS a universal right no matter where the person is living, or social status. I can’t imagine or understand justifying sterilization of an incarcerated person. When the rights to vote are being approved for inmates released, how does a state reverse sterilization?” – Susan Feller, Shttps://artwools.com/susan-feller/usan Feller
Notably, in 2018, the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was passed, repealing the Eighth Amendment, offering hope for similar issues in the United States and elsewhere. This campaign and featured artwork underscore the influential role of art in sparking conversations on important social issues, emphasizing the human aspect of the abortion debate and delving into the complexities of individual experiences related to reproductive rights. [The archive of the Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment is now online the National Irish Visual Arts Library (NIVAL) at the National College of Art & Design is accessible through the Digital Repository of Ireland (DRI).]
Make your voice heard by voting wherever you live for bodily autonomy for all!
🤔 Why do you believe bodily autonomy is essential for everyone?