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Reproductive injustice and abortion in America

Because some gender non-conforming people, transgender men and gender expansive* people may also have unintended pregnancies, this article uses gender neutral language. The only exceptions to this appear in quotations and statistics, due to the nature of the sources.

In 1976, Congressman Henry Hyde, R-IL, said “I would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion: a rich woman, a middle class woman or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the [Medicaid] bill.”

Shortly after his remark, the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal insurance from covering abortion, passed in Congress. To this day, Hyde remains in effect, continuing to restrict access to abortion for low-income people, Native Americans who use Indian Health Services, government employees and military personnel.

Nearly half a century after Roe v. Wade, abortion remains legal but inaccessible in the United States. Because of policies such as Hyde, one in four poor women is forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy, and women denied abortions are three times as likely to end up below the federal poverty line.

Yet anti-choice politicians, who are primarily cisgender men, aim to further limit access to abortion. Their efforts to do so indicate their failure to consider the emotional, physical and financial vulnerability that pregnancy forces onto people.

Do anti-choice politicians ever question what coming out as pregnant means for people in abusive relationships? Do they consider the welfare of pregnant young people with abusive parents? Does their forced-birth campaign address how emotional, physical and sexual violence often follow the words “I’m pregnant”?

Ignoring the vulnerability of pregnancy isn’t the only shortcoming of the anti-choice platform. Bushes and Rubios in Congress frequently claim that coercing people to give birth is not classist, because “choosing adoption is free.” Although adoption may reduce post-birth costs, it fails to subsidize prenatal expenses. For low-income people especially, new clothes for a bigger belly and more food for the fetus may mean less food on the table for the kids. Sixty percent of people who have abortions already have kids, and a subset are low-income. No one should be forced to compromise their kids’ welfare to bear the costs of an unwanted pregnancy.

Clearly, access to abortion is necessary for the safety and well-being of people with unintended pregnancies and their families. But fear and danger shouldn’t be a necessary precondition for the ability to choose.

Paying off debt. Providing for kids. Not wanting the time and cost of morning sickness and doctor visits. Feeling uncertain about the quality of local health care in the event of pregnancy complications.

There are hundreds of reasons why people consider abortions, but the truth is that “I don’t want for my body to be pregnant right now” is enough. People with uteruses are capable of making moral decisions that are best for themselves and their families, and all people with uteruses should have the right — and means — to choose.

It is past time that Congress act to ensure abortion coverage for all people, regardless of how much they earn or how they are insured. This July, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, introduced the EACH Woman Act, which would end the Hyde amendment once and for all. While the EACH Woman Act has no chance of getting passed as long as Republicans dominate Congress, the mere act of introducing it marks a huge step forward. The fact that Barbara Lee, a black woman, introduced the bill reflects the continued leadership of women of color, and particularly black women, in spearheading the reproductive justice movement.

In 1994, members of Sister Song, a Women of Color Reproductive Justice Initiative, crafted a three-pronged vision of reproductive justice: the right to have a child, not have a child and parent kids in safe and healthy environments. Access to abortion is only a small — but necessary — piece of this vision, and it’s time to make it happen. It’s time to end Hyde.

 

Contact Allison Rose Martin at amartin9 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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