By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS and LEAH WILLINGHAM – Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — If you’re black or Hispanic in a conservative state that already limits access to abortions, you’re much more likely than a white woman to have one.
And if the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to further restrict or even ban abortions, minority women who already have limited access to health care will suffer the brunt, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press. .
The potential impact on minority women became all the more clear on Monday with the leaking of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting that the court’s conservative majority is set to overturn the landmark decision of 1973 legalizing abortion.
As for the effect on minority women, the numbers are unambiguous. In Mississippi, people of color make up 44% of the population but 81% of women who have abortions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health statistics.
EDITOR’S NOTE – This is an updated version of a story published earlier this year.
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In Texas, they represent 59% of the population and 74% of those who have abortions. The numbers in Alabama are 35% and 69%. In Louisiana, minorities make up 42% of the population, according to the state health department, and about 72% of those who have abortions.
“Abortion restrictions are racist,” said Cathy Torres, organizing manager of the Frontera Fund, a Texas-based organization that helps women pay for abortions. “They have a direct impact on people of color, black, brown, indigenous… people who are trying to make ends meet.”
Why the big disparities? Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of the Alabama-based Yellowhammer Fund, which provides financial support to women seeking abortions, said women of color in states with restrictive abortion laws often have limited access to care. health and a lack of choice for effective birth control. Schools often have ineffective or inadequate sex education.
If abortions are banned, these same women – often poor – are likely to have the hardest time traveling to remote parts of the country to terminate pregnancies or raise children they might find difficult to afford, said said Roberts, who is black and has previously volunteered in Mississippi. only clinical abortion.
“We’re talking about people who are already marginalized,” Roberts said.
Regardless of what lawmakers say, Torres insisted, the intention is to target women of color, to control their bodies: “They know who these restrictions are going to affect. They know it, but they don’t care. »
But Andy Gipson, a former Mississippi legislator who is now the state’s agriculture and commerce commissioner, said race had nothing to do with the Mississippi law’s passage. against abortion after the 15th week, which is now before the Supreme Court.
“This is about saving the lives of unborn children and the life and health of the mother, regardless of color,” said Gipson, a white Republican who is also a Baptist minister.
To those who say forcing women to have babies will subject them to hardship, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, a white Republican, said it’s “easier for working mothers to juggle career success and family life” than 49 years ago when Roe was decided.
Fitch, who is divorced, often talks about her own experience working outside the home while raising three children. But Fitch grew up in a wealthy family and worked in the legal profession — two factors that can give working women the means and flexibility to get help raising children.
This is not the case for many minority women in Mississippi or elsewhere. Advocates say that in many places where abortion services are cut, there is little support for women carrying babies to term.
Across the country, US Census Bureau information analyzed by the AP shows that fewer black and Hispanic women have health insurance, especially in states with strict abortion restrictions. For example, in Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, at least 16% of black women and 36% of Latinas were uninsured in 2019, some of the highest rates in the country.
The problems are compounded in states without effective reproductive education programs. Mississippi law states that sex education in public schools must emphasize abstinence to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Discussion of abortion is prohibited and instructors cannot demonstrate how to use condoms or other forms of contraception.
Mississippi Director for Planned Parenthood Southeast, Tyler Harden, is a 26-year-old black woman who had an abortion about five years ago, an experience that led her to a career supporting pregnant women and upholding the right to abortion.
She said that while attending public school in rural Mississippi, she was not taught birth control. When she got pregnant at 21, she knew she wanted an abortion. His mother was battling cancer, and Harden was in his final semester of college without a job or housing after graduation.
She said she was made to feel fear and shame, just like she did during sex education class. When she went to the clinic, she said protesters told her she was ‘killing God’s most precious gift’ and ‘killing a black baby, playing in what the supremacists want white”.
Tanya Britton, former president of Pro-Life Mississippi, often drives three hours from her upstate home to pray outside the abortion clinic in Jackson. Britton is black, and she said it was a tragedy that the number of black babies aborted since Roe equaled the population of several major cities. She also said people are too laid back to terminate a pregnancy.
“You just can’t take someone’s life because it’s not practical – ‘I want to finish my education,'” Britton said. “You wouldn’t kill your 2-year-old because you were in college.”
But State Rep. Zakiya Summers of Jackson, who is black and a mother, suggested there’s nothing flippant about what poor women are doing. With little support, they sometimes have to make difficult decisions.
“Women are just here to try to survive, you know?” she says. “And Mississippi doesn’t make it easy.”
Associated Press reporters Noreen Nasir in Jackson, Mississippi, and Jasen Lo in Chicago contributed to this report.
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