It’s been 43 years since Roe vs. Wade, and since then legislatures have picked poked away at the landmark decision that legalized the right for women to choose. Safe and legal abortions are under attack and Black women – who seek out family planning services at a rate four times higher than White women – may face greater limitations in getting the procedure. Who is protecting our rights as women?
Within the past five years more than 200 laws that impose restrictions on abortion have been enacted by state legislatures – that’s more than the number passed from the previous ten years.
I have mixed feelings about this issue. On one hand, I am pro-life. On the other hand, I don’t want the government telling me what I can and can’t do with my body. I don’t like the fact that women are being forced to make unsafe and harmful decisions. As women, we shouldn’t have to be put in that position when it comes to our health.
Why should women have to travel 100 miles or more just to get birth control? It feels as though the government has its thumb on our backs. So are Black women specifically more affected than other groups?
Planned Parenthood estimates that abortions cost anywhere between $300 and $950 in the first trimester. Most private insurance providers cover those costs, but African-Americans are 55 percent more likely to be uninsured. Not to mention Black women are three times more likely to have an abortion than White women.
Even if a Black woman relies on Medicaid, the use of government funds is banned in 33 states, and can only be used in cases of rape or incest or where the pregnancy threatens a woman’s life. The financial obstacles that these regulations pose leave many low-income women with few options to pay for safe procedures.
Eighty percent of African-American women agree that abortion should be legal. Like me, many Black women are reluctant to support abortions because of religious values, however, they also believe that women should be in control of their bodies and that protecting our rights as women is a priority.
On the other side of this issue are pro-life activists who argue that these restrictions are actually beneficial because they limit the terminations of thousands of Black pregnancies. Education about reproductive rights should be made available to all women.
We have to let go of the stigma that comes with supporting access to abortion. That stigma is making women’s lives difficult. And that is something I think more about particularly during this election year. We have to be make sure that whoever is voted into The White House is going to work towards protecting our rights as women.