19-year-old Ayaanah Gibson was found dead alone in her dormitory at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. She bled to death after giving birth to a stillborn. The college student was found three days later. She was 32 weeks pregnant, which her family was unaware of. Gibson had recently graduated from Sacramento Charter High School with a 3.5 GPA, and was a survivor of brain cancer, which was in remission for five years. How could this woman not call medical professionals for help? Further analysis of the situation reveals that social and institutional barriers stood in the way of this young woman's survival.
Benedict College is a Baptist-affiliated school with nearly 3,200 students. Reproductive justice efforts aim to support girls and women by providing resources and offering them accessibility. Such justice-oriented organizations work to empower marginalized groups. Within the framework of reproductive justice, women are empowered to make decisions regarding their well-being, not to benefit political, religious, or legal entities in their policies. Based on the details of her death, Gibson must have felt unsupported and disconnected from the system as she was unaware of her own pregnancy.
"She didn't even know," family friend Deborah Bryant said. "She didn't have no symptoms, and she wasn't a child that hides stuff either."
In some instances, women show no symptoms of pregnancy, which is another reason why having ready and apparent access to reproductive health education is so necessary. This young woman's situation raises significant questions concerning young people's knowledge of sexual and reproductive health.
According to the LA Times, "Gary Watts, the Richland County coroner said there was no indication of foul play. He said toxicology tests will be performed to determine whether Gibson was taking medication that might have interfered with her judgment or caused her to lose consciousness."
Even if tests show that Gibson was taking medication that influenced such a tragedy, it doesn't provide insight into the reproductive injustices that led to the supposed oblivion and disengagement from her body and environment.