Abortion rights activists say reproductive healthcare is at risk

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Photo by Keep Abortion Safe, Legal & Accessible by Debra Sweet for WMNF News.

Today marks the second anniversary of the landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade.

The high court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization took away the constitutional right to abortion, abandoning nearly 50 years of precedent and paving the way for states to ban abortion. 

Abortion is now banned at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions, in 14 Republican-controlled states.

Meanwhile, most Democratic-led states have taken actions to protect abortion rights, and become sanctuaries for out-of-state patients seeking care.

The Supreme Court’s decision sparked legislative actions, protests, and numerous lawsuits, placing the issue at the center of politics nationwide. 

Abortion activists say people should have the right to choose what’s best for their bodies, and the access to make that choice a reality. 

The harsh restrictions impact certain demographics more, according to Oriaku Njoku, the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds.  

“Abortion bans and restrictions harm black communities, indigenous communities, people of color, and people experiencing financial hardship the most,” Njoku said. “This is not accidental. It’s not coincidental. It is definitely by design.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. 

Monique Shaw is the senior program officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving healthcare nationwide. 

“There is no coincidence that the states with the highest black maternal death rates are also states with the harshest abortion restrictions,” she said.

Shaw said the decades-long public health crisis of maternal mortality is not a separate issue from what she calls an attack on reproductive rights. 

“Unfortunately, racism and discrimination in healthcare settings, and also a widespread lack of access to coverage and quality healthcare, are at the root causes of the dismal maternal health outcomes and disparities that we’re seeing across the country,” she said.

Shaw said reproductive and maternal healthcare should not be a privilege, but a right.

But despite the difficulties of navigating the barrier to abortion care, Njoku said they have tried to see the silver lining.  

“One of the beautiful things that has come out of this moment is just seeing the resiliency of a lot of groups, specifically abortion funds, who are working tirelessly every day on the ground to ensure that regardless of what kind of laws and restrictions are out there, that people are able to get the abortion care that they want and need on their own terms,” Njoku said.

Most communities have a local abortion fund with people working to provide access to care. Njoku said they usually work in a way that is rooted in reproductive justice. 

Florida law now prohibits women from getting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which opponents say is before many women even know they are pregnant.  

However, this November, Florida is joined by Maryland, Colorado, and South Dakota in giving voters a chance to decide through a ballot initiative whether to enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution.

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