When I was young, I was taught that Roe v. Wade granted every woman the right to an abortion. As I got older, I learned that it wasn’t just women who need abortions and that Roe v. Wade came with a load of restrictions, quotas, and limits. This was made apparent to me when I interned with Jane’s Due Process this past summer. I saw upfront what a lack of abortion access meant for young Texans. As I talked with them and heard their concerns about their ability to get the health care they needed, I wondered what Roe was really doing to protect their rights. The more I learned, the less Roe felt like a win and the more it felt like a luxury for those with social and financial privilege. It was frustrating seeing the full picture of Roe’s history, but it was necessary. As we reflect on the 49th anniversary of the case and all of the power it has given people in need of an abortion, let’s also take a moment to look at who it leaves behind and how we can change that.
On January 22nd, 1973 Roe v. Wade was passed and life changed for wealthy, white people as they were granted the right to safe and legal abortions. People of color, and those who were poor, queer, or incarcerated, on the other hand, were granted a promise that lacked follow-through. Just as Americans were rejoicing the right to abortion, the Hyde Amendment was passed — a law stating that federal Medicaid and funding could not be used to pay for someone’s abortion. This was meant to target, poor people of color and severely hurt them as they then had to choose between things like paying their rent and utilities, buying groceries, taking care of their children, or getting the abortion they desperately needed. It was an intentional move to limit who really had the right to an abortion. Throughout the Hyde Amendment’s 45 years in action, it has only made three exceptions for when someone can use federal funds to pay for their abortion: in the case of rape, incest, or risk of death due to the pregnancy.
The Hyde Amendment is still active today and it’s certainly not the only legislative restriction on abortion rights. It has influenced anti-abortion politicians in their creation of similar policies which place the same restrictions on government-funded health care for military families, incarcerated people, and Native Americans. Its reach is wide and it impedes people’s access to the abortions they need and have a right to access. It is clear that the passing of Roe v. Wade was just the beginning of a very long fight for real, full abortion access for everyone.
As we celebrate the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2022 it’s impossible not to reflect on 2021’s negative impact on abortion rights and access. America saw the highest number of abortion restrictions in one year disproportionately harming Black, Indigenous, and Latino people; rural Americans; those with low income; immigrants; young people; the LGBTQ+ community, and disabled people. These restrictions were created through gestational bans, medically unnecessary requirements, parental involvement laws, coverage restrictions, trigger bans, and more. This is leading many people to fear that this past January 22nd may be the last time we ever celebrate Roe.
Let’s take a moment to imagine the what-ifs. If Roe is overturned, 26 states are set to ban or restrict abortions, abortion providers in states where it’s still legal will become overwhelmed, the stigma around abortion will grow, and people who face the most systematic oppression will lose all access. This is why we must keep fighting for abortion justice for all, and against discriminatory laws that limit access to this lifesaving health care.
While we have to protect Roe v. Wade from being overturned at all costs we cannot see that as the end of this fight. As abortion justice activists have said, “Roe is the floor, not the ceiling.” We cannot forget that it has never lived up to its full potential for/protected people whose reproductive health care has been restricted and inaccessible. Moving forward, abortion access must be reimagined and redesigned, and every one of us must get involved – you must join the fight. Educate yourself on what abortion justice is and currently looks like.
Here’s a list to get you started:
- First, check out All* Above All, the women of color-led organization fighting for abortion justice.
- They just released their “Action Plan for Abortion Justice”; in short, they call for Abortion care to be provided without hurdles or stigma, affordable and accessible for immigrants of any documentation status, geographically convenient, regardless of political beliefs, and covered by all forms of public and private health insurance plans.
- Next, research your own state’s abortion laws.
- See if you are guaranteed abortion access regardless of Roe v. Wade’s standing or if your access is restricted and ready to be banned the second it’s overturned. Check out your loved one’s state laws, send it to them if it’s safe, and let them know if their rights are in jeopardy. Get your immediate community involved!
- Finally, find a way to physically or monetarily get involved in the movement.
- Donate or crowdfund for your nearest abortion fund; volunteer for an abortion helpline/textline; and find protests or rallies to attend raising awareness of the abortion justice movement. And, donate to Collective Power to help us build up a generation of young, bright leaders ready to elevate this movement.
We all are or know someone who needs guaranteed access to abortions and other forms of necessary reproductive health care. We have to imagine an even bolder, brighter future; Roe v. Wade and beyond – legislation that protects and works for all of us no matter the identities, social, and financial capital we hold.