In an open letter to Congress, NAACP and Planned Parenthood highlight the importance of Washington D.C. statehood, citing pandemic response, vaccine distribution and healthcare as reasons the measure specifically affects Black people.
The letter, released on Thursday (April 29), notes that there are urgent matters that must be addressed, including the mortality rate with Black women. It’s “a matter of life and death,” the letter reads.
Head of Planned Parenthood Alexis McGill Johnson and president of the NAACP Washington D.C. Akosua Ali are among the supporters who have signed the letter, with many other Black women on the signatory page.
“It has always been morally reprehensible to deny the people of Washington D.C. representation in our democracy. People who live in Washington D.C. are being denied autonomy to build their own health care systems and make their own choices about their bodies.”
With a population of roughly 700,000 people, D.C. residents would gain more control over their health and more, including surviving a pandemic that has increased the mortality rate in the Black community.
“As the country works to distribute vaccines and end the COVID-19 pandemic — which has devastated Black and Latino communities with higher infection rates, death rates, and job losses — the District’s lack of autonomy has put residents’ health at risk,” the letter said. “Large proportions of D.C.’s vaccine allotment has gone to federal agencies and to non-residents while Black residents are going without. While D.C.’s Black residents have accounted for nearly half of COVID-19 cases and nearly 70% of deaths, they’ve received only 37% of vaccines.”
Just last week, the House of Representatives voted to make D.C. the 51st state, along with a new name, Washington, Douglas Commonwealth. The name represents the dismantling of slavery and civil rights leader Fredrick Douglass.
D.C. would have two senators and one house seat if statehood is granted.
However, the bill needs at least 10 republicans in favor of the change. As of right now, the change is not guaranteed, especially with the democratic party not fully on the same page. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said he’s undecided, as reported by CNN.