Friday, September 30, 2022

Access to reproductive health care was more difficult for Black and brown women – overturning Roe made it more difficult

Within days of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to reverse, banned at least seven states abortion.

And even though judges have blocked the enforcement of “trigger” abortion bans in three states, more bans in other states are expected in the coming weeks. It is believed that 26 states are likely to ban abortions.

Abortion is likely to remain legal in 20 states – and the District of Columbia – with 14 of those states recently enacting legislation that improved access to abortion.

What will be the impact of this ban, especially on colored women and other marginalized communities?

As a scholar who studies reproductive policy and politics, reproductive justice and social movements, I have always been aware that even when Roe was in place, women of color, women in rural areas and women in poverty experienced difficulties in providing reproductive health services. obtained, including abortion.

In addition, the debate over abortion often overshadows the other reproductive health inequalities, such as high pregnancy-related complications and deaths, that women of color face.

This recent decision will only widen these gaps.

Inequalities in reproductive health

Since the early 1980s, there has been a general decline in the abortion rate in the United States, despite claims to the contrary by anti-abortion advocates.

The rate went from 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44 in 1981 to 13.5 per 1,000 women in 2017.

However, African American and Latina women have excessively higher abortion rates than their white counterparts.

The abortion rate for white women is 6.6 abortions per 1,000, while the rates for African-American women – 23.8 per 1,000 – and Latinas – 11.6 per 1,000 – are three times and twice that rate, respectively.

In addition, low-income women are responsible for 75% of all abortion procedures.

A white woman shouts as she holds up a sign that reads 'Judgment'.
An abortion protester insults abortion rights activists on December 1, 2021 before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

According to public health researchers Christine Dehlendorf, Lisa H. Harris and Tracy A. Weitz, these higher rates are attributed to the higher rates of unintended pregnancies among these groups, which are themselves attributed to limited access to health services.

Poor people and people of color are more likely to live in contraceptive “deserts”, places where the number of health centers that offer the full range of contraceptive methods is not enough to meet the contraceptive needs of the people living in those places.

The spread of these deserts has been exacerbated by policies instituted by the Trump-Pence administration that have limited family planning funding to clinics.

Inequalities in reproductive health extend beyond abortion.

The infant mortality rates among African Americans, Native Americans, and Native Alaskans are very high.

The death rate for white babies is 4.5 deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to 10.6 for African American babies and 7.9 for Native Americans / Native Alaskan babies.

In addition, African American, Native American, and Native Alaskan women are most likely to die from pregnancy-related complications.

As a study by Lynn Paltrow and Jeanne Flavin showed, poor women of color are most likely to be arrested and prosecuted for murder, manslaughter and child threats while pregnant.

These charges are often made after a woman has terminated a pregnancy, refused to consent to a medically unnecessary caesarean section, endured a miscarriage or stillbirth, or tested positive for illegal drug use.

There is also the worrying history of the systematic, coercive sterilization of colored women in the US. Women of color and other social groups had to fight just as hard for the right to have children as for the right not to have them.

By 1937, 32 states had enacted laws authorizing the sterilization of people deemed “unfit” to reproduce, including immigrants, racial and ethnic minorities, poor people, unmarried women, people with disabilities, people with mental health issues and people with criminal records.

As historian Alexandra Stern explains, this practice was considered “an essential public health intervention that would protect society from harmful genes and the social and economic costs of managing ‘degenerate livestock’.”

Scholars have documented the history of sterilization abuse among colored women in the 20th century, including women of Mexican and Mexican American heritage in Southern California, African American women in the South, Native American women using Indian health services, and women in Puerto Rico.

Many have been sterilized without their full, informed consent.

Although most of these formal sterilization laws were abolished by the mid-1980s, this practice unfortunately still happens as reports of sterilization abuse in detention centers run by immigration and customs enforcement emerged.

A post-Roe, post-Dobbs world

In the coming months and years, we will see more women traveling to terminate their pregnancies – to states like California, Colorado and New York, where abortion is likely to remain legal.

But long-distance travel may not be a viable option for those who cannot afford the cost or time off work or who may not be able to provide child care for their children.

Studies have shown that travel distance is a major obstacle to obtaining abortions, as women will abandon an abortion if they have to travel more than 50 miles to the nearest clinic.

As with their pre-Roe predecessors, many women may decide to cause abortions themselves out of distress and desperation.

This could make them even more vulnerable to charges of fetal murder if they are discovered.

An elderly white man sits behind a desk while holding a virtual meeting showing participants on a large pink screen.
President Joe Biden talks to governors about protecting access to reproductive health care on July 1, 2022 in Washington, DC
Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

Studies have also shown that unsafe abortions can lead to serious health risks, including bleeding, infection, infertility and death.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Among the more than 400,000 children in the foster care system, there is the least chance of children of color being adopted.

These children reside in the foster care system.

Erosion of rights

Judge Clarence Thomas argued in his assent in Dobbs that the court should reconsider reversing other landmark rulings, including access to contraception in Griswold v. Connecticut, LGBTQ + sexual behavior and sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas and same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.

Thomas’ sentiments reveal a broader ultra-conservative agenda to roll back the social and political gains that marginalized communities have made since the 1960s.

In my opinion, if Thomas gets his wish, women of color will see further erosion of their personal autonomy and right to make the fundamental decisions about the most intimate aspects of their lives.

Nation World News Desk
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