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Today’s decision is about more than a limit on abortion access. It’s about justice. What is legal and what is just is not always the same. We all deserve bodily autonomy and access to care, no matter your gender, race, ability, identity, or location. Equitable and just places are meant for all of us.
The Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade affects access to care for many people. We all know what is best for our bodies, and people know what’s best for their babies during pregnancy and delivery. The court has made a major medical decision for people that puts lives at risk through life threatening pregnancies, child births, or unsafe abortions. This is despite the fact that a majority of people in the United States support a person’s right to obtain an abortion.
A recent study estimated that banning abortion in the United States would lead to a 21 percent increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths. Inevitably, the impact would worsen existing injustices. In the United States, Black people suffer enormous health disparities in maternal and infant health. Black women are at least three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes, according to U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention data. This has nothing to do with their biology, insurance status, prenatal care, or socioeconomic status. It has everything to do with bias and racism within our medical systems. Multiple forms of racism in our health care system continue to harm communities of color and are an existential threat.
Overturning Roe v. Wade will exacerbate racial and economic injustice. Abortion’s legal status defines whether young people will be able to complete their educations or participate in the workforce. Its legal status also defines their ability to participate in public and political life. People who are educationally and economically ahead experience a different reality. They have better access to comprehensive reproductive health care and are better positioned to avoid ill-timed and unwanted pregnancy. Their need for termination tends to be less common.
Locally, the stakes are now raised for the midterm election in Kansas when voters will decide to secure the right to an abortion in the state constitution — or not. In Missouri, a “Right to Life of the Unborn Child Act” passed in 2019 bans abortions unless there is a medical emergency. Doctors who violate the bill’s provisions could face felony charges and jail time. Gov. Parson enacted that law today.
Make no mistake. These actions are designed to divide us and to prevent us from creating a high-quality health system accessible to everyone who needs it, including pregnant people. Our health is not the sum total of our individual actions. But major policy shifts affect community conditions, and influence health outcomes, for large swaths of people.
Health Forward will continue to challenge all policies that perpetuate health injustice and divide our realities. Powerful communities are healthy communities. This is why Health Forward is investing resources to build community power and increase participation in democracy. We believe in a future where everyone has the information, freedom, and access to make choices regarding their health and their bodies.
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