May 3, 2022

Reproductive Health & Survivors

Funding for crucial reproductive healthcare services as well as safe and legal access to abortion are vital to the individuals and families we serve. These resources not only provide pathways for success in individuals’ lives but can be life-affirming during some of the most difficult situations a person may face. With access to care, “among all women, one in four will have an abortion during their reproductive years,” abortion access has become a part of how we view our independence and bodily autonomy since 1973. A reversal or removal of this guaranteed right will alter the life course of many individuals across our nation.

Yesterday, Politico leaked a draft opinion by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on abortion access. This document revealed that the SCOTUS voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, leaving it up to states to determine whether or not abortion care will be legally accessible if the opinion is finalized in its current form. 

With this draft opinion authenticated by Chief Justice John Roberts, 23 states are poised to ban abortions. Governors across the country are rapidly responding to this ban stating whether or not it will impact their residents. While Washington state will not be affected by this decision, our neighboring state of Idaho already has a trigger law in place making abortion a felony crime if the SCOTUS opinion is finalized. 

We Support the Holistic Health & Wellness of Our Clients

Supporting the health and wellness of the populations that we serve is a critical part of our mission at YWCA Spokane. Access to affordable childcare, contraceptives, reproductive healthcare and emergency services and resources are vital to supporting our communities. 

We believe in empowerment. Our clients don’t need anyone to make decisions for them, we walk alongside those we serve by providing them with the resources they are looking for to create their own successes. A variety of resources come together to eliminate barriers to the success of the communities we serve, including childcare, family planning, and reproductive healthcare. 

Affordable childcare through programs like the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) funded by Washington State allow our clients to pursue career opportunities that help uplift their families, their communities and themselves. In the 2019-2020 school year, we served 1,353 children and their families with early childcare and pre-school. Programs like this don’t exist in many states, and infant care can be hard to come by and cost an average of $14,844 per year per child in Washington. 

Family planning and reproductive health services provided by Planned Parenthood are also vital to supporting our community. Their programs support millions of patients across the country, including low-income individuals and families, young people, individuals of color, and transgender individuals. In the 2018-2019 fiscal year, they provided services to over 2.4 million Americans. 

Reproductive Freedom & Domestic Violence

Of women who were raped by an intimate partner, 30% experienced a form of reproductive coercion by the same partner. Specifically, about 20% reported that their partner had tried to get them pregnant when they did not want to or tried to stop them from using birth control. About 23% reported their partner refused to use a condom.” – (CDC)

Domestic violence limits many survivors’ choices around childbearing and birth control. Coercive control in relationships often includes manipulation of birth control and contraceptives. According to the Committee on Health Care for Underserved Women “15% of women experiencing physical violence also reported birth control sabotage.” This can take the form of replacing birth control pills or withholding them, condom sabotage (like poking holes, removing during sex, or forced unprotected sex), and a variety of other methods. A study of high school students in 2019 revealed that “of 550 sexually active high school females, one in eight had experienced reproductive coercion in the past three months.” 

In addition to manipulating birth control and contraceptives, abusive partners often attempt to control their partner’s decision to have children. This pressure can come through a variety of methods, including physical violence or a threat of violence to force a partner to comply with their desires to continue or terminate the pregnancy. 

Having children with an abusive partner can put both the survivor and the children at an increased risk of violence. Even in childbirth, the rate of complications is higher, and according to the CDC, intimate partner violence is “associated with unplanned pregnancy, preterm birth, low birth weight, and decreased gestational age.” Many survivors of domestic violence also face the real possibility of their abuser gaining custody of their children if they leave their partner, which happens in up to 50% of cases

While maternal mortality rates are high for a variety of reasons, intimate partner homicide is among the leading causes of death for pregnant women in the US. According to a study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, “pregnancy and the postpartum period are times of elevated risk for homicide among all females of reproductive age.” This issue impacts pregnant Black women most severely, who were found to be victims of intimate partner homicide at a rate “8.1 times greater than their non-pregnant peers.”

The Impacts of Limiting Safe & Legal Access to Abortion 

The Amicus Brief highlighted a few key areas where young women, especially women of color will be impacted by abortion bans such as Mississippi’s and the many others poised to take affect soon: educational attainment, work & career attainment, economic security, and maternal healthcare. 

“In a typical year, approximately 63% of those served by YWCA are people of color, 77% are women, and at least 62% have incomes at or below the federal poverty line. Over 400,000 of those served by YWCA are young women between 18 to 30 years of age.”Amicus Brief

This Amicus Brief was filed by YWCA USA, Girls Inc., Supermajority Education Fund, and United State of Women in Support of Respondents regarding the Supreme Court case Mississippi v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In an Amicus Brief, the person, organization, or group filing advocates for the interests of those they serve who will be impacted by the decision but won’t be able to represent their interests in court. In this case, the organizations involved are advocating on behalf of the many individuals we serve who will be impacted by new abortion limits and precedents set by the Supreme Court. 

Educational Attainment

The brief highlights the educational achievements and advancements young women, especially women of color, have had the opportunity to make since they’ve been able to rely “on the right to access abortion care in making personal decisions regarding pregnancy for their lives and futures since 1973.”

This service is particularly vital for young women of color who are both more likely to live in poverty than white women, “generally face greater barriers to accessing reproductive health care, and are less able to overcome restrictions on abortion access.” Abortion bans would impose more severe limits on those with fewer economic resources who may have the most to gain through their continued education. 

Work & Career Attainment

“As of 2019, the labor force participation rate of women stood at 57%, a significant increase since 1970 when the majority of women did not work outside the home.” As women have had increased labor force participation, families and communities have begun to rely on their income. 

Abortion access will not only impact the ability of women to participate in the workforce, but it allows women to reach higher levels of success within their fields as many sectors of the workforce lack support for young mothers. Resources such as affordable childcare for working mothers are often unavailable as well, “one year of infant care, for example, costs more than one year of in-state college tuition in 33 states.” 

Economic Security

From 1970 to 2019, the brief highlights that “women have gained better access to high paying jobs with the number of women working as civil engineers increasing by 977%, as pharmacists by 434%, as physicians and surgeons by 334%, and as lawyers and judges by 681%.”

When afforded the choice to wait longer to have children, women are better able to invest in their own wellbeing and personal success. Investments in education and training allow for higher lifetime earnings and greater economic security, getting us closer to closing the gaps in pay for women and women of color in the workforce. 

Maternal Healthcare

“Women in the United States experience nearly the highest rate of maternal mortality among high-income nations.” Maternal mortality refers to death occurring during pregnancy, delivery, or recently postpartum. From 2018 to 2019 the number of maternal fatalities rose, and the CDC has acknowledged this as a cause for concern. 

While the US is struggling to meet the standard for maternal healthcare, women of color are facing the forefront of this problem. “Black women are up to four times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related death.” This health crisis has intersectional effects, impacting women of color most severely. 

We support the individuals we serve and their choices as they navigate many systemic barriers to a healthy and successful life. For all of these reasons, and so many more, we will continue advocating for safe and legal abortion access in addition to other crucial supports for women and families across our nation. 

Take Action Today!

  • Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act! Both Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, our Washington State Senators, are co-sponsors. Contact them and ask them to bring the bill to a vote again.
  • Donate to a local reproductive health organization. Here is a state-by-state list for you to explore.
  • Consider attending an event May 14th – many national organizations are holding rallies to push legislators into action and increase public awareness.

Check Out These Additional Resources to Learn More

Inside the Last Abortion Clinic in Mississippi : New York Times
Why Women Seek Abortions After 15 Weeks : The NPR Politics Podcast 

By: Rachel Dannen

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