Author: Titiksha Patel
IV Year | The Maharaja Saiyajirao University of Baroda, Vadodara
On June 24th, 2022, the US Supreme Court, in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization1, overturned the landmark ruling of Roe vs Wade2 and ceased the freedom of right to abortion in the country. It not only re-opened gateways to unsafe abortions and maternal mortality after 50 years of abortion rights but also curbed a female’s bodily freedom.
With many states already having laws that quickly set up the abortion ban, post-Dobbs effects will exacerbate the situation of women of colour in the United States. We are heading towards creating the most unequal and ignorant society in history. This article analyses how the turnover of Roe vs Wade specifically impacts black women in the U.S.
Violation of Human Rights:
On June 8, 1992, the U.S. ratified the human rights covenants and yet the abortion ban defies several human rights3. It takes a toll on the mental and physical health of a female along with deteriorating the environment for black females in the country.
- The Right to privacy of one’s body4 is recognized in the fourteenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Despite being a developed country, it still somehow lets the state decide what a female citizen should do with her baby. A female having an abortion is fundamentally a matter between her and the doctor. 930,160 abortions occurred nationwide in 2020, excluding those carried out by the use of abortion pills obtained outside of clinical settings.5 Out of these, approximately 40% were black females. Banning abortion just based on cultural thought also violates the first amendment. The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids promoting one religion over another.
- Right to Healthcare6 is also a privilege in the U.S. It doesn’t hold a legit place in the constitution which is why it is inaccessible to many of the citizens. Most white women have the privilege to have health insurance while black females often cannot afford it. Black women in the United States are nearly four times more likely to have abortions than white women. Based on a report by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, black women produce 15% more cortisol7 due to the stressful environment than white women which can induce the risk of pregnancy complications. The stressful environment includes forever racial discrimination in the smallest of things, illiteracy, sexual harassment, etc. Black females go through maternal mental health conditions like anxiety disorders, bipolar illness, depression, and many other chronic conditions at a higher rate than white women. Most of them don’t seek treatment for the same because of financial inability.
- Right to be free from cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.8 An abortion is not the result of a woman’s intentional choice, sometimes it is the only choice. Where the fetus is a result of unwanted pregnancy, rape, or contraceptive failure, life cannot be forced on someone by taking away their right to live. If banning abortions leads to illegal abortions, which it will, we might also expect more murderers like Kermit Gosnell9. Further, the maternal mortality rate increases by 33% for black females.10 The United States has seen some horrifying cases of women before 1973, attempting to terminate their pregnancies by themselves11 using knives, coat hangers, wrong pills, and throwing themselves off stairs.
Abortion, Finance, and Future – Post Dobbs Effects:
There exists a circular nexus between health, finance, and the future of a woman. Abortion is not just about a woman’s body. Her economic status, accessibility, and opportunity paves the way for such a choice. African-Americans make up 12.9% of the country’s population12.
After years of racial discrimination in all aspects of life, now black women would also face a risk in health and finance. The majority of black females that have an abortion are of 15-19 years of age13. What makes them choose the option of abortion is also driven by the thought of the expense of a child which is estimated to be $9,000 a year14. While they have low incomes that are not even sufficient to fulfil their own needs, a child’s responsibility is out of the scenario.
When abortions become inaccessible in the states where a higher number of black populations reside, the mortality rates increase. If forced to have babies, the females might suffer through mental trauma, have a huge impact on their work life, and might also be forced to do illegal things to just survive.
Not every black female will have the financial support to go to other states and have an abortion. Also making abortions illegal increases the number of children living in poverty and remaining uneducated. Also, struggling single mothers serve the working community of Americans. More population would increase the demand in the market which again results in the capital growth of the working class.
Following the effects of overturning Roe, many big companies showed up support and declared to include travel expenses for employee abortion care in health insurance. One cannot help but wonder, how many black females would be working in these multinational companies keeping in mind their college graduation rate which is 11.1-11.5%.15
Can’t replace Racist with Culturist:
The people who support the ruling in the Dobbs case fall into the class that has the privilege of wealth, status, and political power. While many pro-life supporters believe that abortion is ultimately murder, all beliefs are not facts. And these beliefs come from a certain way of living, a culture.
States like Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and Mississippi have supported the abortion ban for years. Throughout the years, Roe vs Wade protected black females not only from racial discrimination but also built a strong base of benefits for legal abortions for females.
Now that we are stepping backwards, in states like Texas, where abortion is criminalized, 18 out of 1000 black women have abortions.16 The legislature of Texas takes a toll on Black females as their priorities include the triggering bill and the idea to sue even an abortion provider. 61% of lawmakers in the Texas House and Senate are white even though the population only consists of 41% of white Texans.17
A retrospective study of the relationship between restrictive abortion laws of states and their maternal mortality rate concluded that those states have higher maternal mortality rates than the neutral or protective states.18 Even before the overturning of Roe vs Wade, when Texas passed the SB 8 bill, the time of waiting for abortions in clinics in nearby states was 2 to 3 weeks.19 Apparently, not only men, but white men specifically, have a lot to say about a woman and her womb.
Conclusion: Is Roe vs Wade a Failed Battle?
To conclude, overturning Roe vs Wade is an outcome of a failed battle in the U.S. It is one of the most insensible ‘pro-life’ agendas that takes us back to the 1960s, shoving the citizens back into an endless struggle for the rights of their bodies.
Ripping abortion laws off basic rights wouldn’t mean it will stop abortion. It will become unsafe and dangerous again for a woman’s life. It will overburden the black community again, but it will not stop because it is a necessity. While there will be an impact globally, the women of colour within the nation will suffer the most.
1 Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 597 U.S. (more) 2022 WL 2276808
2 Roe vs Wade, 410 U.S. 113(1973)
3 Jimmy Carter, U.S. Finally Ratifies Human Rights Covenant, Christian Science Monitor, 1992
4 Griswold v Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479(1965)
5 Jeff Diamant and Basheer Mohamed. “What the data says about abortion in the U.S”, Pew Research Center, (June 24, 2022)
6 Article 25 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019 Data https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/ss/ss7009a1.htm
7 Nikesha Elise Williams Black Women and Cortisol: How Chronic Stress Affects Your Fitness, Healthline, (May 11, 2021 ) https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/black-women-cortisol-and-fitness
8 Article 5 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
9 Sarah Kliff. The Gosnell Case: Here’s what you need to know, The Washington Post, (April 15, 2013, 2:24 pm) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/04/15/the-gosnell-case-heres-what-you-need-to-know/
10 Nina Sun, “Overturning Roe vs Wade: reproducing injustice”
11 Daniel Grossman, Kelsey Holt, Melanie Peña, Diana Lara, Maggie Veatch, Denisse Córdova, Marji Gold, Beverly Winikoff & Kelly Blanchard (President Project Manager Senior Program Associate Project Manager) (2010) Self-induction of abortion among women in the United States, Reproductive Health Matters, 18:36, 136-146, DOI: 10.1016/S0968-8080(10)36534-7 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1016/S0968-8080%2810%2936534-
12 Women of color in the United States: Quick Take. (2022, January 31). Catalyst.
13 Russo NF, Horn JD, Tromp S. Childspacing intervals and abortion among blacks and whites: a brief report. Women Health. 1993;20(3):43-51. doi: 10.1300/J013v20n03_03. PMID: 8266707.
14 Nandita Bose, “Roe vs Wade ruling disproportionately hurts Black women, experts say”, Reuters, (June 28, 2022)
15 Women of color in the United States: Quick Take. (2022,January 31). Catalyst
17 Mary Tuma, “It’s easy to dismiss Black women’s lives”, The Guardian, May 30, 2021.
18 Addante, Amy N et al.” The association between state-level abortion restrictions and maternal mortality in the United States, 1995-2017.” Contraception vol.104,5 (2021)
19 Amelia Thomson-Deveaux, “It can already take weeks to get an Abortion”, FiveThirtyEight, April 18, 2022.
Editor: Pratik Banerjee