The May 2 leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is likely to become a defining moment in the fight for equality. Despite the years-long efforts by states to strip child-bearing people of their right to choose, a decision from the highest court in the nation sets a stark tone, unable to be ignored. And though the decision has the propensity to affect the masses, equal rights advocates are dutifully pointing out the devastating impact it will have on women of color and those living in poverty.
Noreen Farrell, the Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates, which fights for gender justice in workplaces and schools across the country, calls the draft decision in its current form a “level of smug sexism and legal violence against women.”
“Roe was not the start of people having abortions; it was the start of having them safely,” Farrell says in a statement shared with EBONY. “Without Roe providing the bare minimum access to a fundamental piece of reproductive healthcare, women experiencing unintended or unwanted pregnancies will be forced to carry to term and give birth against their will. They will be forced to endure that outrageous loss of personal liberty in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, no paid maternity or family leave, no universal, subsidized childcare, no birth parent care, no wage fairness or equity, and frequently inaccessible mental health care.”
In the United States, the maternal mortality rates for Black women have long been a concern. Due to implicit biases and structural racism, among other factors, Black childbearing people, according to the CDC, are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women. Black Americans are also more likely than their white peers to be without health insurance. And in 2018, African Americans accounted for 34 percent of Medicaid enrollees.
“Let’s be clear: Roe v. Wade was never guaranteed abortion access if you were a woman living in poverty, despite the fact it affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to one. Soon after the Court’s ruling, Congress enacted the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funds from being used to pay for abortion outside of the exceptions for rape, incest, or if the pregnancy is determined to endanger the woman’s life, resulting in dramatically limited coverage of abortion under Medicaid and other federal programs. The overturning of Roe v. Wade will make this lack of access worse,” says Farrell. “Women living at the edge of economic viability will not be able to afford to cross states to obtain an abortion if pregnant. Abortion bans will disproportionately harm poor women, sexually abused children, and others who lacked access to preventative reproductive health care to begin with.”
Equal Rights Advocates is demanding that elected leaders renew their commitment to rebuilding the economic power of Black and Brown women and women living in poverty, and in doing so take immediate Congressional and state action in protecting abortion.