The current fight for abortion rights is more than a domestic battle over state’s rights and individual decision making. This battle fits within the larger context of self determination and human rights. The protections derived from the landmark cases could be eroded or eliminated. Roe v. WadeAnd Casey vs. Planned Parenthood This will have devastating consequences for pregnant women in the country as the protected privacy interest of personal decision-making goes beyond abortion.
Recent reports have shown the unintended consequences of strict abortion restrictions on pregnant women and people of color, as well as low-income women. According to Planned Parenthood’s “Red Alert” reportIn 2021, there were 90 abortion restrictions in the country, more than any year since. Roewas passed. Written in partnership In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, a collective of eight Black women-led reproductive justice organizations, the “Red Alert” estimates that close to half of cisgender women of reproductive age (18-49) could lose abortion access if and when Roe This is a mistake.
This number goes up if you include all women who are able to become pregnant.
Advocates not only affirm the necessity of recognizing abortion rights as fundamental, but also connect the right of abortion and bodily autonomy to the Constitution’s broader protectionFreedom. The Center for Reproductive Rights published a 2018 report that explored the relationship between the landmark abortion cases’ rights and the related rights of bodily integrity and medical decision making.
“Any erosion of our right to liberty would mean losing much more than the right to abortion,” the report reads, noting the established right to liberty depends on a collection of rights without which liberty would not exist. The Supreme Court’s prior recognition of the right to abortion is grounded in rights to make medical decisions and privacy.
A group of prominent Mississippi reproductive justice and health organizations formed the organization in response to the grave threats to abortion rights and other freedoms. Mississippi Abortion Access Coalitionto coordinate responses during the legal battle and to provide resources to residents. In a press conference just before the Supreme Court oral arguments. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health OrganizationThe group provided context for the current battle by focusing on the impact of communities in the Magnolia state.
“People [who]Pregnant women are not only forced to have pregnancies, but they also face the financial burden of raising children at a time when they may not otherwise be able to. [them] making families more likely to experience food and housing insecurity,” said Valencia Robinson, executive director of Mississippi in Action. Mississippi in Action was established in 2009 and focuses its advocacy on sexual and reproduction health through a holistic approach that integrates advocacy with community-based health.
While Dobbs originally centered around the constitutionality of Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, the state’s legal team has made it clear it seeks to overturn abortion at the highest level.
“Mississippi is one of 12 states with trigger bans, laws designated to ban abortion immediately if Roe is overturned,” Cassandra Welchlin, lead organizer/co-convener of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, said. “Without RoeEven more people in the Midwest and south of the U.S. won’t have access to abortion care. The autonomy to make decisions about their own bodies, lives, futures and families will be taken away.”
A project by the Center for Reproductive Rights evaluated state reproductive health prioritiesAccording to research, states with more restrictions on abortion had fewer supportive measures for overall reproduction health. These included raising the Medicaid income limit and restricting the shackling of incarcerated women. Mississippi was amongst the top five states, along with Texas and Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Missouri.
“We need to make access and information to all forms of abortion care more available so that people can safely make their own health care decisions in their communities. Abortion restrictions are medically unnecessary, based on false assumptions and have deeply racist origins,” said Michelle Colon, executive director of SHERo. “Protecting abortion access is essential to reproductive justice, the human right to maintain personal autonomy, have children, not to have children, [and] parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
Colon explains how extending the scope of the fight beyond abortion access can address long-standing health and well-being disparities that impact marginalized communities. Abortion is a form of health care. The decision to have one or not is one of many medical decisions that people make every day.
Mississippi is not only a leader in limiting abortion access but also has a lower rate of equal access to reproductive health-related services than other states.
“A lot of counties don’t have health departments and places where they can access birth control services, STI testing and things like that,” explained Tyler Harden, Mississippi’s state director for Planned Parenthood Southeast. “Our state has yet to expand access to Medicaid. And we know that when people are given the opportunity to take control of their health and to have access to the things that they need, then they are able to make decisions that are best for them and their families.”
Welchlin recognized the disparate impact of rural communities and said that Medicaid expansion was key to expanding reproductive health services. Failure to expand Medicaid creates a wider crisis in care throughout the state. According to Mississippi State University, more than half of the state’s population lives in rural areas and either all or a portion of the 82 counties are considered “medically underserved.” Combined with the crisis of rural hospital closures, Mississippi officials disregard people’s basic health needs.
“Mississippi is so rural and those folks don’t have access to clinics where they can go and just get the basic care that they need in order to be whole and healed,” Welchlin said. “If the state of Mississippi and our decision makers expanded Medicaid then we’ll be able to have a robust health care infrastructure across the state where people can access contraceptive care and just even taking care of a woman who is pregnant.”
Colon agreed, noting the discriminatory barriers that exist for marginalized communities to access reproductive health care in the South and Midwest.
“Mississippians [should] have the right to get the health care they need without shame, unnecessary obstacles and restrictions and government interference in our decisions,” Colon said.
Colon stated in an August interview that every year since her move to Mississippi, there have been new restrictions. Colon, a resident of the state since 1997 said that Mississippi has been fighting issues often ignored until a wealthier state is confronted with a similar fight.
She spoke of the big fight that took place in Texas in 2013, when Wendy Davis, former Texas senator, filibustered a bill to ban abortion after 20 week and require abortion clinics be licensed ambulatory surgeon centers. Colon stated that Texas had great momentum and organized well, but Mississippians were fighting the same battle and it received very little coverage.
“I wasn’t overreacting when I talked about this, you know, 20 years ago,” began Colon. “I wasn’t overreacting five years ago. And we were damn sure not overreacting last year.”
Only three judges can uphold this guarantee Roe, Colon said this isn’t some dystopian film or book. It’s real life.
“What people have learned now over the last 10 years, you don’t necessarily have to ‘overturn Roe,’ you just continue fucking with the existing abortion rights and hurting women and girls and people trying to get an abortion,” Colon continued. “The entire country is Mississippi, baby, whether they want to admit it or not. And so, nobody is really safe.”
Calling Mississippi “an abortion desert,” Colon said that in addition to having only one clinic, the state has some of the most stringent anti-abortion laws in the country. Mandatory wait time, multiple clinic visits, and laws targeting abortion providers who go beyond what is necessary for patient safety, like hospital-admitting privileges, all add to the burden of abortion access.
Despite the so-called “culture of life” that Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves and other anti-abortion officials claim to espouse, their narrow concern for so-called life runs counter to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopted by the United States, which strive “toward preventing maternal mortality and morbidity, to secure women’s and girls’ right to equality and non-discrimination, and to ensure their right to life.”
While federal legislative interventions are important to protecting people’s right to personal liberty and bodily autonomy, Mississippi organizers are not waiting for national saviors.
“Our priority should be making sure that people have access to the health care that they want [and] need,” Colon said. “That means ensuring that people who want to get an abortion at a clinic or doctor’s office can do so without restrictions or barriers.”