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Black Women State Legislators Speak to the Impact of Abortion Restrictions on Communities of Color

The Brown Girls Guide to Politics is proud to partner with the State Innovation Exchange’s (SiX) Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council and Democracy Project to bring you a spotlight on women of color state legislators who are navigating the unprecedented influx of racist, anti-democratic, anti-abortion, and anti-transgender legislation being introduced across the country.

As we await the Supreme Court decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, we must remember that simply maintaining the legality of abortion has never been enough. Across the nation, accessible and equitable abortion care is lacking and low-income, people of color continue to be hit hardest by abortion restrictions. Paired with already poor maternal health outcomes nationally, particularly for Black and Indigenous birth givers, the need to ensure that everyone has access to affordable abortion care is even more pressing.

Reproductive freedom is an essential component of racial equity and health justice, and it is absolutely essential that we combat the inequitable burden of abortion restrictions on people of color. The Turnaway Study finds that people who are denied abortions are more likely to experience poverty, food insecurity, and physical violence; issues that already disproportionately affect low-income people of color.

We are fighting for reproductive justice to be a reality for everyone. This means we need proactive, state-level legislation to remove barriers and ensure that nobody is denied abortion care. Below, Black women state legislators, and members of SiX’s Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council, speak on the importance of expanding abortion access.

Representative Ajay Pittman (Oklahoma, District 99)

“We are now eyewitnesses to how a pandemic can easily exacerbate access to housing, food, unemployment benefits, and healthcare. While government officials struggle to mandate vaccines to save lives, they continue to mandate what women do with their bodies, human rights, and medical decisions – especially in communities of color where increasing maternal health issues and alarming infant mortality rates are swept under the rug. Some elected leaders advocate that they are pro-life, but they are only pro-birth as state funding decreases for healthcare services.”

Senator Erika Geiss (Michigan, District 6)

“Abortion bans target and harm people seeking abortions as well as those who support them. This is not a one-dimensional issue. It’s about human and reproductive rights, and it has racial and economic consequences, so it’s prudent for us to pursue this matter if we are to have a thriving and equitable nation. It is necessary that we ensure everyone has access to affordable, comprehensive abortion care in the communities where they live regardless of identity, geography, or income.”

Delegate Nicole Williams (Maryland, District 22)

“Reproductive justice is an issue that I care deeply about. We need to ensure that abortion care is affordable and available, especially for marginalized groups. I recently filed the Pregnant Person's Freedom Act which will work to prevent the criminalization of abortion and pregnancy loss in the state of Maryland. It is important that those who are trying to advance reproductive freedom intentionally work to understand the impact that structural racism has on BIPOC people and look to always examine issues from an equity lens regardless of the policy.”

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