'Fair and equitable access to abortion is a justice issue'

Finger Lakes Justice Partnership

At the time of this writing the week of June 13, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is expected to come down at any time. If it is released in a form similar to the draft leaked last month, “More than 20 states — home to roughly half the country’s population — are likely to outlaw nearly all abortions,” according to the New York Times.  In this final column on the topic, let’s look more closely at what that means.

Activists gather to rally for abortion rights in front of the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Reno on May 3, 2022.

Fair and equitable access to abortion is a justice issue. Fifty percent of those seeking abortion are at the poverty line, and another quarter are near it. Many people cannot travel between states to obtain one, especially as more states become empowered to restrict abortion access. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in the south, over 50 percent of those seeking abortions were Black or Hispanic. Without a guaranteed right to choose, the United States will become more unequal.

Banning this medical procedure doesn’t make it impossible to get; it just becomes more difficult, more expensive, and more dangerous for some people to obtain. Of course, the hardship of acquiring abortion services will not be equitably distributed. Planned Parenthood notes that before Roe, “[T]hose with means — specifically wealthy white women — could afford to travel to skirt the law and access abortion while other people could not.”  This will again be the case when the court overturns Roe.

According to the CDC, “About 93% of reported abortions in 2019 were performed at or before 13 weeks of pregnancy, 6% were conducted between 14 and 20 weeks and 1% were performed at or after 21 weeks,” noting that abortions that occur later in pregnancy are often due to extreme medical circumstances.  And according to KFF, at least 50% of all abortions are now medication-induced at ten weeks or earlier. Nevertheless, proponents of strict abortion bans use false rhetoric about casual, late-term, and grisly surgical procedures to generate powerful emotions, hoping to garner support for sweeping limits and outright criminalization “from the moment of conception” (a nebulous and endlessly debatable standard).  It seems that a majority of the Supreme Court has been taken in by these baseless emotional appeals.

Disturbingly, according to comprehensive data compiled by Axios, some anti-abortion laws poised to go into effect provide no exceptions for cases of rape and incest or for ectopic pregnancies. When Roe is overturned, many people — some of them children — will be forced to carry their rapists’ babies, and others will die from an agonizing but treatable medical condition.

At its core, the right to an abortion is about the right to self-determination. The decision to carry and bring a child into the world is deeply personal. The Supreme Court’s likely decision is wrong. For the sake of collections of cells still far from viability outside the womb, living people will suffer and die. Doing more to prevent unwanted pregnancies would achieve abortion opponent’s goals, yet they refuse to countenance such measures, preferring to use the force of government to control lives and bodies.  Television host John Oliver noted that abortion is a “cornerstone of comprehensive medical care” and that “freedoms are never guaranteed. They are hard won and easily lost.” We need to be more courageous than ever in fighting for them.  For ways to help, visit www.ineedana.com/donate.

Alex Andrasik, Angela Proietti-Nelson, and Sally White

Finger Lakes Justice Partnership