Efforts build towards reproductive justice for marginalized communities

 
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The historic fight for reproductive justice continues to be at the forefront of the national conversation with abortion-related legislation active across the country, Congresspeople working to increase access to affordable over-the-counter birth control, and ongoing efforts led by women of color in Congress to repeal the Hyde Amendment - a policy that bars federal funding for abortions (mainly impacting low-income people/of color).

The unconstitutional nature of the criminalization of abortion and reproductive care - which are an intrinsic part of health care - is seen as part of a broader, coordinated attack on women and gender nonconforming people’s civic participation and the representation of their rights and interests. This is because structural and explicit racism and discrimination have already disinvested in reproductive care of mostly women and gender nonconforming people of color - particularly Black and Native American women, disabled women and low income women. For many patients, lacking safe, appropriate and dignified abortion and other reproductive care is an ongoing reality. Abortion bans would only exacerbate already dire health outcomes and people’s ability to make informed decisions about their bodies and health.

Poor and low income women, who make up 75% of all US abortion patients, could be gravely impacted by these policies. For example, there is a long history of Black women being systematically deprived of their ability to exercise control and agency over their own bodies. Further, women living in rural communities often lack clinics and doctors who can provide appropriate reproductive care. Abortion bans could lead to doctors in affected areas limiting their practice out of fear of prosecution, further compounding this inequity.

In addition, the mainstream narrative surrounding abortion often centers cisgender, heterosexual white women: excluding key groups who are and could be harmed through restrictions on reproductive care. These groups include disabled individuals, whom supporters of abortion bans claim to be ‘protecting,’ but who continue to lack access to reproductive care alongside other health needs such as mobility challenges, chronic conditions creating medical complications, etc. Others include queer people, and gender non-conforming and trans folks. All of these members of our communities have differing needs which should be taken into account in resisting abortion bans and working toward reproductive justice.

Though abortion bans and other restrictive policy efforts are devastating to the fight for reproductive rights and reproductive justice, there are various strong efforts to defend reproductive care - health care - for all.

One such response is the movement around repealing the Hyde Amendment, the forty year-old policy that bans federal funding for abortion and has been condemned by many as discriminatory, unjust and systematically racist. This policy has a disproportionate impact on women of color, low income women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community:

  • Low income women - who a) disproportionately are women of color, and b) continue to face deep disparities in reproductive health - were deliberately excluded from receiving reproductive health care through the passage of the Amendment

  • Transgender people are three times more likely to be unemployed and thus experience higher rates of lacking access to care given Medicaid work requirements

Reproductive justice accounts for the complex and intersecting factors in a given person's life as they decide if, when and how to create and sustain a family with dignity and free from discrimination, coercion or violence. The continued existence of the Hyde Amendment impedes marginalized people from being able to access reproductive health care and services that they need to be healthy and free.

Repealing Hyde is a first step toward achieving reproductive justice for all. Other policy proposals seeking to push back against restrictive abortion policies include the EACH Woman Act - reintroduced by Rep. Barbara Lee with a first-ever Senate companion bill. This Act would block the Hyde Amendment to ensure that women would have coverage for all pregnancy-related care, including abortion, regardless of whether they were insured by federal or private insurance. Additionally, the Women’s Health Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Judy Chu, would prevent states from being able to set any non-medical restrictions on abortion access.

Budgetary and other policy should focus on addressing problems related to improving access to reproductive health care, including comprehensive sex education, contraception, abortion, and other reproductive services. The narratives and experiences of marginalized people must be centered in the ongoing conversation about reproductive rights and in the fight for reproductive justice.

Reproductive justice organizations to follow: