People of color and other marginalized, low-income people will be most affected by an overturn of landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, health and policy experts said after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion was published by POLITICO Monday.
In the draft opinion, Associate Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.” He said Roe was “egregiously wrong from the start,” and called its reasoning “weak.”
Half of US states, concentrated in the South, Midwest and Plains, have restrictive abortion laws set to go into effect should the reversal take place. Experts say those who disproportionately have trouble accessing health care, often people of color, will be most impacted.
More than half of the nation’s Black population lives in the South, where women of color, including Hispanic women, make up a significant proportion. The Plains states also have a large Indigenous population. Days ago, the Oklahoma Legislature passed a 6-week abortion ban similar to one adopted by Texas last year.
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“We know that it’s going to impact those who already have barriers to health care, even before an abortion ban,” said women’s health and reproductive rights policy expert Fatima Goss Graves, an attorney and president of the National Women’s Law Center. “Those who live in rural areas, women of color, those who have low income.”
If Roe is overturned, people may travel hundreds of thousands to get to states where abortions are still allowed. Young and low-income people, who are disproportionately of color, may not be able to afford the cost of travel.
“This will be a giant and larger hurdle placed in front of them,” Graves said. “Most people who seek abortion care already have children. And they may not have time off work, access to child care, the things they need to be able … to leave their community to get constitutionally protected health care.”
Center for American Progress attorney and women’s health policy analyst Elyssa Spitzer noted women of color and LGBTQ people already experience bias and discrimination in health care.
“It is very concerning, and very alarming and would devastate access for many millions of women in the United States,” she said. Subjecting women to carry an unintended pregnancy to term “is immensely painful, and arduous and a violation of human rights.”
citing the Turnaway Study, which found significant harms after abortion denials, Spitzer said carrying a pregnancy to term also can pose financial barriers and well-being.
“It makes it much more difficult for women to escape poverty, for women to pursue the careers that they want, it imposes a change on a family structure that women might not want to undertake,” she said.
Those hurdles include increased chances of economic hardship and insecurity following birth, staying with a violent partner or raising a child alone, and threats to the well-being and development of children already in the home, the study found.
Lead study author Diana Greene Foster, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, said“Abortion is an issue which disproportionately affects people of color,” subjecting them to “totally underappreciated risks of pregnancy.”
A study estimating effects of an abortion ban on maternal death by the University of Colorado, Boulder, found among Black women, maternal deaths could increase by one third. Black women already are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than white women.
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More than 80% of callers to Access Reproductive Care-Southeast, which offers financial and logistical support for abortion seekers in the region, were Black, uninsured or on public insurance, and about 77% had one child already, according to a joint study last year by the organization and Emory University. The study analyzed characteristics of 10,000 callers from Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi.
“We must acknowledge that Roe never guaranteed that abortion would be accessible, because for so many people that we work with, the ability to access abortion care has already been pushed out of reach for decades. This is our daily lived reality,” ARC co-founder and executive director Oriaku Nijoku, who co-authored the study, said in a media briefing Tuesday.
Medical director at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Dr. Bhavik Kumar, is a physician and abortion provider in Texas, where a restrictive abortion law was passed last year and a total ban could take place if Roe is overturned.
“Though I’m trying to assist many patients as possible, I’m still stunned that I’ve been asked to turn my back on the health and well-being of my patients,” Kumar said during a debriefing with Njoku and others. “As a family medicine physician, I see this firsthand in my patients’ stories and lived experiences.”
Supreme Court opinion drafts are subject to change by Justices, and are part of the high court’s process. But analysts have maintained since oral arguments last year it appeared likely the court would overturn the landmark 1973 decision. A decision is expected this summer.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism