By Ana Eusse, MSW Student and NARAL Pro-Choice NC Campus Representative at UNCW
As we celebrate the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, those of us who support choice must ask if choice is a possibility if there isn’t an ability to access reproductive care. When healthcare is seen as a commodity, as opposed to a human right, the lack of access to full reproductive health access cannot be ignored, and it is imperative that we take that into account when advocating for choice.
This is particularly true when advocating for choice in poor communities and communities of color. The lack of access to women of color and poor women results in truly not having a true choice. Women of color, immigrant women (both citizen and non-citizen), and poor women have higher rates of unplanned pregnancies, yet lack the resources to have an abortion. Many of these women never had access to the tools to stop them from getting pregnant.
Many think Roe has guaranteed access to abortion. It has and does not. The government’s control over poor women’s choice through legislation that denies using federal funds for abortions, like the Hyde Amendment, creates the lack of access for women who desperately need access to abortion. Subsequent legislation, such as Planned Parenthood v. Casey, has allowed federal and state governments to erect further roadblocks impeding choice and preventing access for far too many people.
As a woman of color and a Health Care Assistant for Planned Parenthood, I am a witness to the struggles of women of all backgrounds who seek access to abortion care. These struggles include finding support in complete outsiders because her family and own community would never accept her making her own decisions; finding financial support to move forward with the procedure; and most importantly, removing the stigma associated when choosing to have an abortion. Unfortunately, the realities for women who seek to have an abortion are the institutional barriers such as government, religion, and gender that actively seek to remove not only access but also the fundamental choice itself. In preventing access, the government is completely overriding the Roe v. Wade decision and denying women the right to have bodily autonomy.
Women really only have a choice when that choice is mirrored by access. Unfortunately, for many women the reality of having a choice is only the first step in deciding whether we can have an abortion. Once a choice is made, thanks to the Casey decision, the next step consists of conducting research to ensure you have the money for travel (including gas and lodging), as the closest clinic could be hundreds of miles away, possible childcare, time away from work, and then of course paying for the actual procedure which begins as high as $400. For the average poor woman, finding out whether she will have enough for food or gas everyday is a constant struggle, and when it comes to her own body, she can be discouraged from even recognizing what she CHOOSES because, well, there is just not access.
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