The U.S. Supreme Court’s vote Wednesday night to keep in place Texas’ restrictive abortion law that effectively undermines the historic Roe v. Wade decision is also a gut punch to the Black women who have long been demanding reproductive justice.
The 5-4 vote along ideological lines all but confirmed suspicions that the increasingly conservative group of justices have an agenda to ultimately overturn the landmark Supreme Court case that legalized a woman’s right to have an abortion.
Texas’ law went into effect when the clock struck midnight on Wednesday morning — one of 666 new controversial laws that address everything from abortion to voting rights to guns. The Supreme Court decided to uphold the abortion law, in particular, that makes it illegal to perform the procedure in Texas for any woman who is more than six weeks pregnant, timing that physicians have said is sooner than many women even know they’re pregnant in the first place.
That goes against everything that Black women who are reproductive rights leaders have long been calling for; calls that were amplified last month after a federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s decision that such an abortion ban is unconstitutional.
Marcela Howell, the founder and president of the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, blasted that ruling at the time and offered precious context for how the decision affects Black women, in particular.
“Black women already face barriers to accessing reproductive health care, the kinds of barriers that can delay abortion care until the second trimester,” Howell said in a statement. “Now, the safest, most common abortion procedure used in the second trimester will be unavailable in Texas.”
Howell emphasized later: “Black women and all women of color will suffer the most from this unrelenting onslaught on reproductive rights.”
Howell’s group said that the “725,000 Black women of reproductive age in Texas” will be faced with “higher costs, longer delays and extra steps for women seeking an abortion.”
Some of the specific ways Black women will be disproportionately affected include economic hardships caused by their inflexible work schedules and extensive family obligations many Black women living in Texas are facing. That means those same Black women will be forced to endure longer wait times, increased travel and financial expenses.
Statistics show that Black women account for about 25% of all abortions performed in Texas, where the group makes up only 13% of the state’s population. Data suggests those same Black women in Texas are disproportionately uninsured, making their reliance on public clinics like the ones that perform abortions crucial.
“As Texas has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country, these women and their families will have nowhere to turn as clinics close,” the National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda said.
Back on the Roe v. Wade anniversary earlier this year, Monica Simpson — executive director of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a national activist organization advocating for reproductive justice for women of color — told NewsOne that the efforts to keep abortion fully legal are connected to larger struggles for social justice.
“In order to create safe and sustainable communities where people can live healthy lives, we need to trust in the leadership of Black women,” Simpson said in January.
Chris Love, the Board Chair of Planned Parenthood Advocates Arizona, also warned in a conversation with NewsOne at the time that abortion being legal alone is not enough to protect access — a prediction that came true Wednesday night with the Supreme Court’s vote on the law in Texas.
“I’m constantly reminded that meaningful abortion access is not a reality for many folks in Black communities across this country and around the world,” Love said. “We should celebrate that Roe is still the law of the land, but we have so much further to go to ensure that all people who can become pregnant have the ability to make their own autonomous and informed reproductive choices.”
On Wednesday night, Justice Sonia Sotomayor expressed a similar sentiment in her scathing dissent.
“The Court’s order is stunning,” Sotomayor wrote. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of Justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”
This is America.
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