We recently celebrated the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling protecting women’s reproductive rights. Not a radical idea, but like any issue tied to women’s equality, autonomy, and economic power, it has been under attack since the beginning.
So now, the question is, will Roe make it to 50?
Abortion is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to access for millions of Americans, especially low-income people and people of color. In Texas, abortion is all but outlawed, and there is a bounty for citizens who successfully sue anyone who has helped a woman get an abortion.
Dozens of other states have already passed trigger laws that will go into effect if Roe v. Wade is struck down by the Supreme Court. Despite the fact that nearly 1 in 4 Americans will have an abortion by age 45, it is treated as a unique subset of health care: one where a person’s agency to make decisions is denied.
But the campaign against reproductive justice doesn’t start and end at abortion. As legal abortion access hangs in the balance, it is clear that attacks on reproductive health care and attacks on policies that support families and children are all part of an orchestrated plot to maintain the status quo and keep it from those who have been left out and left behind.
Getting an abortion takes more than just a doctor — it also requires the money to pay for the procedure, the ability to take off work, and access to transportation. And for the 6 in 10 women seeking abortion who are already mothers, it requires child care. These hurdles can create a de facto abortion ban, denying access or inflicting fear on patients seeking all types of reproductive care.
I am one of the millions of women who have experienced the heartbreak of a miscarriage. Years ago, during a routine prenatal visit, a sonogram confirmed that my pregnancy was no longer viable. It was crushing. I was sent home to wait to miscarry, but like half of all miscarriages, mine required a procedure to remove the fetal tissue that could cause a lethal infection.
Today, we’re witnessing a renewed assault on mifepristone, the abortion pill that is also used in many cases for nonsurgical miscarriages. Yet another barrier for reproductive health care and a tactic to frighten and take power away from pregnant people, regardless of their feelings toward their pregnancy.
If there were bounty hunters when I suffered a miscarriage, would my routine surgery have been readily available to me? Certainly not. What if my doctor prescribed a nonsurgical abortion but the medication had been outlawed in my state? The very point of these restrictive laws is to make providing abortions a legal and emotional nightmare for patients and doctors.
No matter the health risks or economic harm a forced pregnancy could inflict, antiabortion activists and politicians are hell-bent on controlling our lives. And they’re proving they’ll stop at nothing to achieve their goal.
The campaign against abortion access in Washington is led by the same politicians who are voting down policies that combat racial, economic, and gender injustice. Why else would politicians who preach family values vote against supporting child care that allows parents to get to work? Why else would they vote against paid family leave?
When I miscarried, I received compassionate care that didn’t infringe on my job or my ability to care for myself or my family, and for women of privilege like me, that will probably always be the case. To make change and protect the right to abortion and the ability of everyone to access care, we have to acknowledge we are up against a coordinated campaign to hold onto the existing hierarchy.
The fight for reproductive freedom is the same fight to dismantle systemic racism and misogyny and bring the ideals of equality and justice set forth in our Constitution to reality. For all.
US Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts is the assistant speaker of the House.