Earlier this month, the Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law criminalizing abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy and encouraging individuals to sue anyone involved in an abortion, from the doctor to the patient to the Lyft. Driver who drove to us at the clinic. That ruling confirmed what many of us feared in the area of ââsexual and reproductive health: The Supreme Court will no longer protect Americans from state and local governments that seek to curtail physical autonomy and eliminate the right to vote.
This ruling affects everyone – not just in Texas, but across the country as more states seek draconian laws that restrict access to sexual and reproductive health care. However, the greatest impact will undeniably be felt on low-income and other marginalized individuals seeking abortion.
Abortion was and always will be available to the rich. before Roe versus Wade Having legalized abortion across the country, wealthy people could travel to a state like New York, where abortions were legal, or find a doctor willing to perform an illegal abortion for a hefty fee. Even today, a wealthy Texas patient seeking an abortion would only have to travel to New Mexico to participate in the procedure. It may be off work for a day or two, but for many it is a small price to pay for basic maintenance.
People on low incomes have never had these opportunities and continue to lack them. A day off may be impossible if it jeopardizes your employment status or if you lose the paycheck required to pay rent; Driving across national borders is simply impossible if you don’t own a car or can’t afford a ticket. This goes to the heart of what drives health inequalities in America: health care is readily available for the poor, but often inaccessible to those who don’t.
Even before this law was passed, our country was facing a sexual and reproductive health crisis affecting all low-income families, especially black families. Black mothers are significantly more likely to die in childbirth than any other ethnic group, a fact that is strongly related to the racial income inequality we see in the United States. Texas law will only exacerbate this problem. As more and more people are forced to carry pregnancies to term, we will certainly see more deaths that would have been preventable had patients been allowed to terminate unwanted or non-viable pregnancies.
We see this crisis play out every day in the Sexual and Reproductive Health Clinics of Public Health Solutions. We serve patients from low-income areas of New York City who often have nowhere else to go. We offer patients STD tests, gynecological exams, prenatal care and contraception, and recommend providers for abortions. These services are an absolutely critical part of health care, but virtually inaccessible to many low-income and marginalized people, especially those who do not live in a big city like New York. We know from experience that these patients often have very limited options for care, and with Texas-based reproductive health clinics closing due to this new law, we know that low-income and other marginalized communities will be the first to gain access to the vital health care they need.
The Texas Abortion Act is a new strategy in the longstanding assault on reproductive health care. Encouraged by the recent ruling, many states with regressive elected officials are trying to replicate this law and deny people across the country their right to vote. The Supreme Court already has cases in its upcoming file that could be disposed of entirely Roe versus Wade. While the Justice Department has taken steps to block enforcement of Texan law, it undoubtedly faces a long battle. We must continue our work against these laws, which, while worded in the language of “women’s health”, endanger rather than protect patients.
With Texas law going into effect, new data suggests that an abortion is nearly impossible for one in ten U.S. women of reproductive age. These statistics are frightening and underscore why we must speak out against this and future laws restricting choice. As we struggle, we also need to keep an eye on those who are on the front lines: low-income and marginalized people. Everyone, regardless of income, race, or gender identity, deserves access to quality reproductive health services.
Lisa David, MBA, is President and CEO of Public Health Solutions, the largest not-for-profit organization in New York City.