By Stephon Johnson
In a bit of irony, National Women’s Health Week began on Monday in the middle of the fallout over a leaked U.S. Supreme Court decision that could affect women’s health in the future.
The leaked documents revealed that the court would likely overturn Roe v. Wade, which could make abortion illegal, at least in certain states.
Several states have used the leaked decision to ride harder on bills concerning women’s health. One state, Louisiana, wrote up a law that would possibly ban IUDs (intra-uterine device: a type of birth control where the device is inserted into a woman’s uterus), in-vitro fertilization and contraception of all kinds. It would also make federal laws on abortion null and void in their state and any state judge who rules against it would be impeached.
The last time Louisiana tried to defy federal law this way was Brown v. Board of Education.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation of any kind in public schools violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. (The 14th Amendment gave citizenship, legal rights and equal rights to Black Americans/slaves who were emancipated post-Civil War).
According to the Louisiana Weekly, in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, white people in New Orleans “took to the streets, literally spitting insults and shouting violent threats at 6-year-old African American girls in 1960. At the tender age of six, The “McDonogh 3,” Leona Tate, Tessie Prevost, and Gail Etienne, the first African Americans to integrate McDonogh 19, and Ruby Bridges, who integrated William Frantz Elementary School, “were subjected to verbal abuse of rabidly racist white segregationists.”
In U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s writing in the decision, she said that the country needs a “domestic supply of infants.” Some also compared Barrett’s statement to the TV show “The Handmaid’s Tale” where the few fertile women left in a country that seceded from the United States are forced into be sex slaves to in order to repopulate and counter the falling birth rates of the nation called “Gilead.”
“Nearly 1 million women were seeking to adopt children in 2002 (i.e., they were in demand for a child), whereas the domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted had become virtually nonexistent.”
According to US Adopt Kids, an organization working to get kids in foster care a “permanent family,” of 400,000 foster children, 117,000 are waiting to be adopted. This doesn’t count the 20,455 young people who (according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) as of June 2020 aged out of the foster care system without any financial or emotional support system on the horizon.
Another advocate group pointed out other reasons that the overturn of Roe v. Wade would be bad for Americans. The economy.
In a statement, Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, a group that fights for “gender justice in workplaces and schools nationwide,” pointed out that Roe v. Wade didn’t really help all women and taking what little they have would make things worse.
“Let’s be clear: Roe v. Wade was never guaranteed abortion access if you were a woman living in poverty, despite the fact it affirmed a woman’s constitutional right to one,” said Farrell. “Soon after the Court’s ruling, Congress enacted the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal funds from being used to pay for abortion outside of the exceptions for rape, incest, or if the pregnancy is determined to endanger the woman’s life, resulting in dramatically limited coverage of abortion under Medicaid and other federal programs.
“The overturning of Roe v. Wade will make this lack of access worse,” Farrell continued. “Women living at the edge of economic viability will not be able to afford to cross states to obtain an abortion if pregnant. Abortion bans will disproportionately harm poor women, sexually abused children, and others who lacked access to preventative reproductive health care to begin with.”
Forcing women to remain pregnant could have another consequence. According to a recent study by researchers at Tulane University, and published in the Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, the leading cause of death for pregnant and postpartum women was homicide with Black women being at greater risk than other races. The study used data from the National Center for Health Statistics in 2018 and 2019 on female deaths between the ages of 10 and 44.
“There were 3.62 homicides per 100,000 live births among females who were pregnant or within one year postpartum, 16% higher than homicide prevalence among non-pregnant and non-postpartum females of reproductive age (3.12 deaths/100,000)”