As voters enter the 2024 election season, many reflect on the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade. The Black woman maternal mortality rate is disproportionately higher than other demographics due to complications and lack of access to necessary health care. Since the latest ruling, the fate of abortion care has been in limbo, and the lack of access to abortion care has become a burden on communities of marginalized women across the country.
In 1971, a lawsuit filed by Jane Roe against Henry Wade, the district attorney of Dallas County, Texas, raised the question of whether a woman has the constitutional right to an abortion. On January 22, 1973, the court ruled abortions fell within a woman’s right to privacy, and abortion care became legal across the country. According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, in 2021, “rates for Black women were significantly higher than rates for White and Hispanic women.” However, the 2022 decision to criminalize abortion resulted in more women being labored into unwanted parenthood, forced to make illegal and sometimes financially impractical decisions, or fighting for their lives due to health complications. Many local politicians supporting reproductive health care are urging bi-partisan work on this issue for voters.
Although local and state lawmakers in cities across America can adopt policies such as Atlanta’s and St. Petersburg’s resolutions to decriminalize abortion, Atlanta Councilwoman Liliana Bahktiari believes there is room for compromise on how abortion care is regulated. “Nobody can exist in an echo chamber from other parts of society and expect that we can get anything done,” Councilwoman Bahktiari said. “It amounts to what we have now, which is a deeply divided nation with a lack of understanding of the other side.”
Before she was elected to be a part of Atlanta’s city council, Councilwoman Bahktiari did relief work in different countries worldwide. She found that the lack of access to reproductive care is directly correlated to the health of society. “Women are the matriarchs of the community [and] the people who carry our next generation into maturity,” Councilwoman Bahktiari said. “When you take away a person’s ability to choose, and you don’t provide that woman with any access to healthcare [and] stability, [but] bring a child into a traumatic, often neglected poor environment, you set them up to not succeed in life.”
Abortion is not an uncommon phenomenon; abortion care is a vital part of healthcare, and the next elected president will have a responsibility to find a middle ground with their constituents. There are currently nine candidates campaigning for the presidency. Three of the candidates are Democrats, including incumbent Joe Biden, and the remaining six candidates are Republican, including former President Donald Trump.
Republican candidate Chris Christie, along with Democrats Joe Biden, Marianna Williamson, and Dean Phillips, all claim to stand with a woman’s right to choose and have publicly said they aim to resist restrictions placed upon reproductive health. Whereas candidates such as Governor Ron DeSantis and Asa Hutchinson advocate for abortion bans with exceptions for rape and incest. Although presidential candidate Nikki Haley signed an abortion in South Carolina, neither she nor Former President Donald Trump have made clear stances on the future of abortion if elected by voters. “Republicans know where people stand, that’s why you see an increase in voter suppression laws but there still is room for compromise,” Councilwoman Bahktiari said.
In Our Own Voice, the first and only national organization focused on Black reproductive justice policy, aids in creating policy to find that silver lining. “We didn’t want to give people any excuses,” Regina Moss, the president of In Our Own Voice, said.
The Black Reproductive Policy Agenda is a guide map of reproductive health policies centering on Black women, girls, and gender-expansive people created by over 30 organizations and advocates. Moss says this agenda could help lawmakers better understand how to alleviate the burden felt by Black women, girls, and gender-expansive people in the health care system. “We don’t hear anything that centers us,” Moss said. “We are often not given the passes other girls from different races get when they have challenges. All of those things have an impact on how we are educated around how to be our healthiest selves.”
According to Moss, everyone should adopt a human rights framework or a line of thinking that aims to remove harm done to others. When voters begin to think within the realms of this mindset, it becomes clear that the attack on abortion and reproductive health care is intersectional to other issues faced by marginalized communities, such as incarceration, gender-affirming care, and lack of education. In addition to reproductive care, providing more funding for different aspects of education, health care, and housing is also pivotal to a prosperous society.
“That’s what we’re trying to get people to understand,” Moss said. “All these issues are interconnected. They’re not necessarily being very creative about it. They’re just saying these are the rights that we’re taking away.”
Moss, a reproductive rights advocate since high school, understands the importance of making sure Black women have the resources and information needed to secure “full agency around their reproductive rights and sexuality.” The Black Reproductive Rights agenda provides fundamental representation to Black women and girls and calls them to take action at the polls.
Richie Floyd, St. Petersburg District 8 councilman, believes voting is paramount if the idea of restoring full reproductive rights to women across the country ever comes to fruition.
“When abortion restrictions go into effect, it’s not wealthy white communities that feel that effect because they’re able to travel for access,” Floyd said. “Their access will not be hindered. You can see when abortion is criminalized, the number of abortions don’t go down. They simply get pushed to the margins, done illegally and done through travel.”
One of the biggest obstacles faced by states such as Florida is getting abortion rights on the ballot. Although coalitions such as Floridians Protecting Freedoms have done grassroots work such as collecting petition signatures and securing community support, many still wonder what the return of reproductive rights could look like after clinic closures and women being criminalized. Councilman Floyd believes the revival of reproductive rights “looks like a patchwork of rights restoration across the country,” including states passing ballot initiatives and possibly an expansion of abortion access compared to past laws.
“The only thing that works in preventing abortions is giving access to healthcare and education,” Councilwoman Bahktiari said.