Abortion is a hot-button issue as well as extremely emotional for many. Roe v. Wade (1973) itself says that “We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires…”
We’re all allowed to have our own opinions, and abortion is no different. Maybe–personally–you wouldn’t want to obtain an abortion or you would discourage a family member or friend considering it. You do have that right, and you don’t have to share your opinions with anyone if you don’t want to. And that’s precisely the point: you should be able to choose what you think and do. Indeed, in Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court legalized abortion because of this exact reason; the Court ultimately ruled that the right to privacy under the U.S. Constitution “is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” However it seems that as the fight continues to uphold our reproductive rights, choice is increasingly becoming a privilege rather than a right.
So, in response to the annual anti-abortion March for Life that took place last week with a visit from President Donald Trump, I have some words for the “pro-life” movement:
Abortion access (or lack thereof) disproportionately affects women of color. As with most things, we cannot and should not extricate race and gender from the discussion. While anti-abortion advocates tend to try and limit issues to the lived experiences of upper middle-class white people, issues like mass incarceration, maternal and infant mortality, and quality of urban schools are all related to access to reproductive healthcare. According to an article by the New York Times, African American women have the highest abortion rate at 27.1 per 1,000 women, compared to white women, who obtain abortions at a rate of 10 per 1,000 women. African American women are also three to four times more likely to die during or because of childbirth than non-Hispanic white women. These disparities have existed at this rate for six decades.
Many anti-choicers claim that the high abortion rate in Black communities is a cultural genocide; conservative Candace Owens, for example, blames abortion for a stagnation in Black population growth. However, a study by the Guttmacher Institute suggests that differences in abortion rates by race and ethnicity are results of decades of racism and discrimination that led to a lack of access to quality and affordable health insurance and care.
Also, even if abortions are made to be illegal, there are still going to be abortions. An article published in Time magazine notes that “women of every class, marital status, religion, and race still obtained” abortions in the century that it was illegal. Before the ruling of Roe v. Wade, entire wards existed for patients with sepsis caused by self-induced abortions that went wrong. Doctors saw the consequences firsthand, and for this reason the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes efforts to restrict abortion laws. We don’t have to imagine what it will be like if legal and safe abortion is taken away; history reminds us of a dark and dangerous time.
Want to help make abortion go away, “pro-lifers”?
Help increase access to affordable birth control. Vote and advocate for healthcare policies that include free contraceptives. Work on sexual violence prevention. Support mothers whose health is in danger during pregnancy rather than harassing patients outside of abortion clinics. Adopt and become foster parents. Advocate for comprehensive sex education in schools. Donate your money to organizations and policymakers who will address structural issues around social and economic disparities instead of throwing your money at the March for Life. Don’t tout Trump as the “most pro-life president” and ignore his history of violence against women, horrific immigration and refugee policies, penchant for war (see recent dealings with Iran!), and cuts to food stamps. And, ultimately, realize that full agency is usually only afforded to the privileged.
If we continue down this path of dangerous anti-abortion legislation, we will only push abortion back under the table–where it is harder for all to access. Keep abortion safe and legal so that those who choose to get abortions can be kept safe and healthy.
Keep abortion safe and legal. Keep pregnant people healthy and alive.