Home Nonprofit organization More black women will die without Roe v. wade

More black women will die without Roe v. wade


Linda Goler Blount was only 8 years old when Roe v. Wade became law in 1973, but she remembers her late mother, a longtime women’s rights advocate, celebrating the news with friends at their home in Michigan.

“There was joy. They were so happy,” said Blount, an epidemiologist who is now president and CEO of Black Women’s Health Imperative, a national nonprofit focused on health equity. “I’m sure at that time they thought they had a right that could never be taken away from them.”

Yet, nearly 50 years later, here we are.

With the surprising but predictable repeal of the constitutional right to abortion by the Supreme Court, women now have fewer rights than their mothers. The same goes for women of color, who never had the same rights to begin with and who face the increased risk of dying in pregnancy due to historic inequalities in health care that are on the verge of to get worse.

Or, as Blount told me, the five Supreme Court justices who ripped off five decades of bodily autonomy said “a whole generation of black girls…they’re not worth saving.”

In 2020, the most recent year for which there is data, 292 black women died in the United States from so-called maternal causes, a 42% increase from the previous year.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that black women are three times more likely than white women to die from a pregnancy-related problem. The rate is more than four times that of black women aged 30 to 34. The rate jumps to five times that of black women with at least a college education compared to their college-educated white peers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

These statistics are backed up by a potent mix of structural racism and implicit bias in health care. Knowing this, Blount and her colleagues at Black Women’s Health Imperative are sounding the alarm about the Supreme Court’s decision.

“We’re looking at what could be a 33% increase in the number of black women who are going to die each year just because they don’t have access to abortion care,” Blount told me, referring to a 2021 study from the academic journal Demography, which covers population issues. “When you map the social networks of who these women are supporting, you’re talking about touching thousands of lives. It is a potential tragedy with ripple effects.

Black women like Blount know that reproductive health freedom is a matter of racial justice in America. This is a crucial connection for the public to understand, which is why abortion advocates have spent years co-opting the language of racial justice for their cause. And they did it while strategically perpetuating misconceptions about abortion and the black community, including linking it to systemic black eradication.

Here’s some truth: As the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization focused on reproductive health rights, said in a report nearly 14 years ago: “Behind virtually every abortion is a pregnancy. unwanted.” And these unintended pregnancies “reflect the particular challenges that many women in minority communities face in accessing high-quality contraceptive services.” This fact must be considered in the context of larger disparities in health outcomes for people of color, such as black maternal mortality rates, the report explains.

There are also other potential spin-offs to consider.

According to the UCSF Turnaway Study, which spent 10 years tracking what happened to approximately 1,000 women of different races who were denied abortions, women who were forced to give birth experienced a increased poverty. And “years after an abortion was refused, women were more likely to not have enough money to cover basic expenses like food, housing, and transportation.”

Black women already make up 22% of women living in poverty, even though they make up about 13% of all women in the United States, according to the Center for American Progress, a public policy research organization.

Since the founding of this country, black and brown women have been caught in a maze of health care barriers and abuse. The recent Supreme Court ruling is just the latest chapter in a centuries-old story of exclusion.

Yet Byllye Avery, who in 1974 co-founded the Gainesville Women’s Health Center, a one-of-a-kind clinic in Florida that has spent years serving low-income, marginalized women facing unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, has many hope. It relies on a new generation of black and brown activists.

“I’m sure young people will stick together and figure out how to solve this problem,” she said. “Once people have been free to do something, it’s hard to lock them down again.”

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Justin Phillips appears on Sunday. Email: jphillips@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @JustMrPhillips