Reproductive Rights Lawyers Representing the Black Community

The war on the reproductive rights of Black women nationwide has lately escalated. One of the weapons of this war is decreasing access to safe and supportive birth control and putting up blockades to abortion like the after-20-week ban that got all the way to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s desk before he utilized his veto rights to quash it. The bill would have included no exceptions for an abortion after the 20-week point, even in cases of rape or incest.

This hard limit on abortion access would have been compounded for Black women, who already have far worse access to reproductive health care than the American average. When this systemic discrimination intersects with the ongoing war on reproductive rights being waged across the US, it can lead to harm that is both visible and invisible.

Planned Parenthood rally at University of Missouri. Source: Wikipedia, shared under a CC-BY SA 4.0 license

How the Pro-Life Agenda Intersects with Systemic Discrimination

In states across the US, the worst-case scenario narrowly avoided in Pennsylvania has already come to fruition. When anti-abortion legislation was passed in Texas in 2016, clinics across the state were shut down — despite the laws that forced their closure eventually being ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Due to these closures, Texans seeking abortions were forced to travel an average of 20 times farther to reach the nearest abortion provider. 

The situation in Texas, while extreme, isn’t out of step with the 90 percent of counties across the US that lack an abortion provider. And in the age of coronavirus, that difficulty has been compounded — in April, Texas put a freeze on abortions, compelling Texans in search of the procedure to seek it across state lines.

Anti-Abortion Laws Weaponize Existing Inequalities

For Black women, these barriers put up additional challenges, some of which include:

  • Unintended pregnancies: Black women experience higher rates of unintended pregnancies than all other racial groups, in part because of disparities in access to quality contraceptive care and counseling. In a recent analysis of California women enrolled in Medicaid, Black women were less likely than average to receive postpartum contraception — and when they did receive it, they were less likely to receive a highly effective method.
  • Connection to poverty: These costs are a significant obstacle for the 25 percent of Black women who live below the poverty line. In fact, financial struggle is a leading reason that people seek abortions in the first place. For Black women, anti-abortion laws only exacerbate deep economic inequities. It’s been shown that women denied an abortion are 4 times more likely to be in poverty 4 years later.

How Limits on Reproductive Rights Can Lead to Injury

When Black women’s access to abortion is limited, they may be more likely to experience injury. These injuries are most severely illustrated by the rate of maternal mortality among Black women, which is 3–4 times higher than it is for white women. The rates of maternal mortality experienced by Black women are more in line with countries on a far lower development scale than the US.

Reproductive rights inequalities routinely lead to delayed care, and the birth injuries associated with it. When family planning services are restricted, Black women and their babies have a higher than average statistical rate of injury from undetected risks to a healthy pregnancy.

What Laws Protect Reproductive Rights?

Although reproductive rights aren’t explicit in the US Constitution, the Supreme Court has ruled on many cases that recognize reproductive rights as fundamental human rights. The Supreme court has protected personal rights around procreation, contraception, family relations, child rearing and access to abortion. The case of Roe v. Wade, which protects a woman’s right to legally access abortion in the early months of a pregnancy, draws on the 14th Amendment, one of the most significant acts of post-Emancipation Black enfranchisement.

Source: Flickr, shared under a CC-BY 2.0 license.

When to Consult with a Lawyer Experienced in Discrimination

Lee Merritt, Esq. is a longtime leader and influential voice in the fight for Social Justice, representing high-profile civil rights cases like that of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man recently shot and killed while jogging in Georgia. 

There are many more battles to fight on behalf of the 22 percent of Black women who report discrimination in their medical care. For a free consultation please fill out our form, write [email protected] or call us directly at 1-800-590-4116.

About S. Lee Merritt

Civil Rights Lawyer

Lee Merritt, Esq. is emerging as a leading and influential new voice in the fight for Social Justice. A dedicated civil rights activist and trial attorney, Merritt runs a high profile national practice focusing on victims of police brutality, hate crimes and corporate discrimination. As an activist, he has championed police reform and community empowerment. 

Do you need more information or want to help? 

Our organization can help mothers and their families who have faced medical issues during pregnancy learn about the resources available to them, as well as learn about what action they may be able to take legally due to discriminatory health practices.  Contact us below by email or phone and our team can learn more about your situation and give you free and friendly advice.

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