Baltimore Sun

If Roe’s reversed, minority women have most to lose

Data: Those of color more likely to draw on abortion services

- By Emily Wagster Pettus and Leah Willingham

JACKSON, Miss. — If you are Black or Hispanic in a conservati­ve state that already limits access to abortions, you are far more likely than a white woman to have one.

And if the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to further restrict or even ban abortions, minority women who already face limited access to health care will bear the brunt of it, according to statistics analyzed by Associated Press.

The potential impact on minority women became all the more clear this week with the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting the court’s conservati­ve majority is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion.

Overturnin­g the Roe v. Wade decision would give states authority to decide abortion’s legality. Roughly half, largely in the South and Midwest, are likely to quickly ban abortion.

As for the effect on minority women, the numbers are unambiguou­s.

In Mississipp­i, people of color comprise 44% of the population but 81% of women receiving abortions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health statistics.

In Texas, they’re 59% of the population and 74% of those receiving abortions. The numbers in Alabama are 35% and 69%. In Louisiana, people of color represent 42% of the population, according to the state Health Department, and about 72% of those receiving abortions.

“Abortion restrictio­ns are racist,” said Cathy Torres, an organizing manager with Frontera Fund, a Texas organizati­on that helps pay for abortions. “They directly impact people of color, Black, brown, Indigenous people ... people who are trying to make ends meet.” Why the great disparitie­s? Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of the Alabama-based Yellowhamm­er Fund, which provides financial support for women seeking abortion, said women of color in states with restrictiv­e abortion laws often have limited access to health care and a lack of choices for effective birth control. Schools often have ineffectiv­e or inadequate sex education.

If abortions are outlawed, those same women — often poor — will likely have the hardest time traveling to distant parts of the country to terminate pregnancie­s or raising children they might struggle to afford, said Roberts, who is Black and once volunteere­d at Mississipp­i’s only abortion clinic.

Torres said historical­ly, anti-abortion laws have been crafted in ways that hurt low-income women. She pointed to the Hyde Amendment, a 1980 law that prevents the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in rare cases.

She also cited the 2021 Texas law that bans abortion after around six weeks of pregnancy. Where she lives, near the U.S.-Mexico border, women are forced to travel to obtain abortions and must pass in-state border patrol checkpoint­s where they have to disclose their citizenshi­p status, she said.

Regardless of what legislator­s say, Torres insisted, the intent is to target women of color, to control their bodies: “They know who these restrictio­ns are going to affect. They know that, but they don’t care.”

But Andy Gipson, a Republican former member of the Mississipp­i Legislatur­e who is now the state’s agricultur­e and commerce commission­er, said race had nothing to do with passage of Mississipp­i’s law against abortion after the 15th week. That is the law now before the Supreme Court in a challenge to Roe v. Wade.

Gipson, a white Baptist minister, said he believes all people are created in the image of God and have an “innate value” that starts at conception. Mississipp­i legislator­s were trying to protect women and babies

by limiting abortion, he said.

To those who say that forcing women to have babies will subject them to hardships, Mississipp­i Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a white Republican, said it is “easier for working mothers to balance profession­al success and family life” than it was 49 years ago when Roe was decided.

But advocates say in many places where abortion services are being curtailed, there’s little support for women who carry a baby to term.

Mississipp­i has the highest infant mortality rate in

the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black infants were about twice as likely as white infants to die during the first year of life in Mississipp­i, according to the March of Dimes.

Across the country, U.S. Census Bureau informatio­n analyzed by The Associated Press shows fewer Black and Hispanic women have health insurance, especially in states with tight abortion restrictio­ns. Problems are compounded in states without effective education programs about reproducti­on.

 ?? ELIAS VALVERDE II/THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS ?? Michelle Anderson of the Afiya Center leads a chant during a rally for abortion rights Tuesday at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in Dallas.
ELIAS VALVERDE II/THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS Michelle Anderson of the Afiya Center leads a chant during a rally for abortion rights Tuesday at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in Dallas.

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