Women of color’s long fight for reproductive justice

In the past few months since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, trigger laws have gone into effect in states like Tennessee and Idaho, and following the recent midterm elections, many other states are working toward similar legislative goals. These laws will not stop people from having abortions. They will only prevent safe and legal abortions, forcing women with low incomes and women of color to disproportionately resort to unsafe alternatives.
In the past, women of color faced attacks from the government that involved controlling their reproductive rights. Many women of color were sterilized while being held in California prisons and other institutions without giving consent to the procedure during the eugenics campaigns of the 20th century. Andrea Garcia, a woman born in Mexico, was sterilized in 1941 at the age of 19 while in an asylum near Los Angeles. In 2001, Kelli Dillion, a Black woman, went in for a surgery while being held in the California state prison system and realized years later that her ability to reproduce had been stripped away without her consent. These are but two examples of over 60,000 people who were forcibly sterilized in the United States, just one of the many ways in which women of color find their reproductive rights controlled by the government.
In the present day, studies have shown that Black people are four times more likely to seek an abortion than white people, and Latinx people are two times more likely to seek an abortion than white people in the United States. The reversal of Roe v. Wade will not change these statistic, which means that these people will look for other ways to get abortions if their state bans safe, legal ones. This will lead people to go out of state or otherwise seek unsafe alternatives. People of color statistically earn lower wages and have more difficulty building wealth than white people, meaning they are more likely to not have the funds to travel out of state and will instead seek in-state abortions. Given such bans, the mortality rate of pregnant women could increase drastically due to these unsafe practices, complications in pregnancy and even suicide.
The recent midterm elections were likely heavily affected by the overturning of Roe v. Wade and its consequences. With abortion having been one of the main voting motivations, voters in support of abortion access were more likely to vote for Democratic candidates, who generally vote to protect the right to safe and legal abortions. Those against it were more likely vote for Republicans, who tend to vote to restrict abortion access. Compared to statistics from prior elections, there appears to be an increase in women voting, and more specifically women voting for Democratic candidates in an attempt to preserve their freedom of choice.
A perspective seen most often from conservatives and Christians argues that abortion should not be legal at all because it is a form of murder, and that the lives of unborn children should be protected by law. While the less conservative among us may be able to sympathize with aspects of this belief, the facts prove that banning abortion, especially in cases of incest or rape, do not protect women or the family, but rather lead to more pregnant women dying. While banning abortion may seem to be a good solution to protect life, it will instead lead to an increased loss of life. By forcing women, and disproportionately women of color, to carry a troubled pregnancy to term or to resort to unsafe alternatives, it is the women who will be put at a greater risk of harm or death.
Of course, it is the women themselves who should ultimately have the final word on their reproductive rights and on their own bodies. The United States should never again need to learn of yet another woman dying from complications of a “back-alley” abortion clinic, or of the harrowing real-life ordeals women like Andrea Garcia and Kelli Dillon were forced to endure. To prevent these irreversible outcomes, it is important to know who you are voting for in future elections and their values and stance on this topic.