Reproductive Choice Should Be a Right – and We Also Need Our Systems to Enable Thriving Families

Access to abortion is a fundamental right that should be legal everywhere in this country, one that is necessary for public and reproductive health. Women and people who can become pregnant should be able to have autonomy over their own body and make decisions that align with their beliefs. 

If you’re involved in racial health equity, public health, maternal health, or caregiving—and so many other fields and values—we know your heart may be heavy with the repeal of Roe vs. Wade. You know that abortion is critical health care, and that the decision to have an abortion is extremely personal and complex. You’re aware of the frustrating statistics — that this decision was made despite most Americans supporting abortion access, despite how 1 in 4 American women will have an abortion by the age of 45, and in the face of how this repeal will disproportionately affect women of color and under-resourced communities. 

Restricting abortion access has long term effects on the people who are denied this form of health care. The decade-long Turnaway Study followed nearly 1,000 people who either had or were denied abortions and tracked their mental health, physical health, and financial impacts. Many people who were denied abortions had higher levels of household poverty, debt, evictions and economic hardships. The study also found that women who were seeking but unable to obtain abortions endured higher levels of physical violence from the men who impregnated them. And at the same time, our country lacks national and local policies that ensure universal access to health care, paid parental leave, affordable childcare and more.

From our work in maternal health, advocating for doula services, public health benefits and trusted health information, we see first hand how access to abortion is a necessary part of reproductive care. We need to continue to aggressively fight for abortion and reproductive rights to remain intact and protect these rights at the state level. At the time of this posting, several states have already enacted local trigger laws banning abortion—many of the same states that have also denied expanding Medicaid coverage for postpartum care

In the face of this major setback in reproductive justice, we must also continue to fight to improve the underlying systems that make it both challenging and dangerous to deliver and raise children in the U.S., whether these children are planned or the product of forced birth.  

That starts with investing in creating the conditions that enable families, women and people who can become pregnant to thrive. States, municipalities and institutions across the country are not only maintaining laws and enacting policies that restrict abortion access, but also those that make it difficult to obtain childcare, paid parental leave and mental health services, secure safe and affordable housing and protect ourselves from gun violence. We need all of this and more to live healthy lives. 

The repeal of Roe vs. Wade is a major hit to women’s rights on a national level, and will have devastating impacts on communities of color. This ruling only increases our commitment to our ongoing efforts to re-design systems and build conditions to create racial health equity at the local level. We’re in this for the long haul, and we deeply appreciate those of you who are too. Now more than ever, we need to work together to advocate for the policies and systemic changes that will support individuals’ and families’ health, well-being, and dignity.

As we continue to fight for reproductive justice, here are some abortion access resources to share with your communities: