At least eight states have banned abortion in the days since the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson, according to a tracker maintained by the New York Times, and half of all states will likely enact limits or bans. Other states, meanwhile, are actually in the process of expanding reproductive rights.
The Dobbs ruling overturned Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 found abortion to be a constitutional right under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. This is the first time the Supreme Court has overturned a recognized constitutional right, a fact acknowledged by Chief Justice John Roberts in his solo concurrence.
On a global scale, the United Nations' women’s rights committee has called out the United States for never ratifying the international convention that protects women’s human rights; though the nation signed it in 1980, it was never ratified. The U.S. is one of seven countries in the world that is not a party to that convention.
Amidst widespread fears concerning women’s, and all people's, health and agency, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra offered some words of encouragement. "I've been around long enough to know that nothing's ever totally safe,” he told NBC's Meet the Press. “But remember, we still haven't even been able to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and so this country has a way to go. But certainly, I don't believe this decision by this court and Dobbs is going to stand long."
But as more ramifications resulting from Dobbs keep emerging, many people who can become pregnant would respond that they will not be able to wait “long” for abortion and related healthcare services.
In the meantime, it will be marginalized communities that are most affected by the rising number of abortion bans, Kim Crowder, a diversity, equity and inclusion expert, told TriplePundit. In early 2020, Black women were almost three times more likely to die during pregnancy than their white counterparts. And women of color overall are disproportionately more likely to get an abortion in the U.S. In Texas, for example, Hispanic, Black and additional communities of color represent 59 percent of the state's population, but people from these communities receive 74 percent of the abortions.
The racial implications are one indicator of the nuance involved in this topic — and nuance is critical when it comes to the conversation around abortion, Crowder said. “I think people keep trying to flatten it around pro-life and pro-choice, and that’s it, when in fact it really is not that. It’s so much deeper than that," she told us. The national conversation must instead involve the question of why women are seeking abortions while also honoring the fact that women, and all people, period, must have a choice and access to necessary healthcare.
That nuanced conversation must center on people of color. “We have a lot of work to do in the medical healthcare industry when it comes to protecting Black and Brown women around health,” Crowder said. Serena Williams and Beyoncé, for example, have spoken out about the challenges they each experienced during childbirth. Williams recounted being ignored by a nurse when voicing her health needs. “I was like, listen to Dr. Williams!” she told Vogue in 2018.
That’s a message Crowder said needs to be heeded across the board. “I don’t know how many times Black women can say over and over, ‘Listen to Black women,’” she said. “It’s just a continuous reminder: If you’re going to be an ally, that means being an ally 24/7, not just when it’s convenient or when it impacts you.”
This conversation must leak into workplaces as well, where women feel pressure not to have children if they want to further their careers, Crowder said. We’re seeing businesses offering to pay for travel in order to have an abortion, but “what we really need to see businesses do is expand medical care, offering more parental leave, care for pre-existing conditions and additional benefits that can help with the heavier lifting,” she explained.
Such benefits can help support anyone starting a family. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, paid leave can also boost labor force participation, keeping parents connected to their careers when they may have otherwise exited the labor force.
“Voting has always got to be a main piece of it,” Crowder recommended to those wanting to make any positive impact. “How are you voting? Are you voting based on only your needs, or are you looking at how elected officials are talking about communities that maybe you’re not impacted by?” Then, assess where you are donating money. Crowder noted that the biggest change happens within organizations that are already embedded in those communities that are the most at risk. Bottom line: Support the good work they are already doing.
In the workplace, Crowder said allies can speak up about adequate access to healthcare “using the ability, as a white person, to be able to speak without being fired, or without being targeted.” Many Black professionals don’t feel they are able to bring up their needs in their workplace. One study found that almost 40 percent of Black employees feel it is never acceptable to speak out when it comes to their experience with discrimination at work.
Crowder said one question to be considering at work concerns ongoing benefits that companies can provide to parents once their children are born, and not just those offered to employees that are deciding whether to have a child. She emphasizes that thinking about the abortion conversation in these larger ways can lead to positive systemic change.
Image credit: Gayatri Malhotra via Unsplash
Roya Sabri is a writer and graphic designer based in Illinois. She writes about the circular economy, advancements in CSR, the environment and equity. As a freelancer, she has worked on communications for nonprofits and multinational organizations. Find her on LinkedIn.