Black Patients Are Regularly Denied Comprehensive Info About Pregnancy Options

As a Black woman living in the South, I have many traumatic memories of being treated differently by the health care system than the people around me. I was anxious when I gave birth to my son 24 years ago. I was high risk and wanted him to be healthy. Everything else was secondary. After hours of induction labor, with no pain medication and for hours, I can recall pleading with my doctor about what was wrong. His response was to ignore my pleas for help, scoff at me and insist that I stop complaining. The entire time I felt helpless — questioning whether this was normal, yet knowing that it wasn’t. I was left behind.

That day, I was not the only victim of institutional racism. We are still restricted from living healthy lives because of reproductive health disparities, especially for Black people seeking abortions.

The Supreme Court is poised to change Roe v. WadePeople all across the country are ready for a major cutback in abortion access. Black people are already being denied access to abortion care in many different ways.

Anti-abortion laws disproportionately impactBlack communities already face systemic barriers that hinder them from living a healthy and happy life. For example, Texas’s latest anti-abortion law, which empowers vigilantes to sue anyone they suspect of providing an abortion, will worsen the targeted policing and surveillance that already hurts Black families. These barriers contribute to a shocking level of inequality. Black maternal mortality ratethe maternal mortality rate among Black women is 3.5 times that of white women — We are denied the resources we need to raise our children.

Through my work training health professionals to overcome biases and address inequities in our health care system, as well as my personal experiences, I’ve come to learn about an injustice that’s lesser-known but just as devastating as abortion restrictions: health professionals consistently aren’t giving Black folks the comprehensive information about pregnancy options that we need to make informed decisions for our futures.

ResearchResearch shows that more Black women don’t get to hear all the options available to them when discussing their pregnancies with a counselor or social worker. In the same study, clients were 80 percent more likely to rate their counseling as “excellent” when their provider discussed all options compared to when they did not, regardless of whether they planned to continue their pregnancy or not.

When they withhold information about abortion, providers fail to respect our autonomy, making assumptions about desired pregnancy outcomes and ignoring patients’ holistic health beyond just their pregnancy. People who are unable or unwilling to have an abortion performed are called “persons who want it but cannot.” more likelyThey are four times more likely than the federal poverty level to be tethered or to abuse partners and to experience poor physical health. These outcomes have cyclic effects on Black families, communities, and not just the individual who is denied an abortion.

Access to abortion is just like any other form of health care. It’s a racial justice issue. It is about defending reproductive freedom for our community by supporting abortion access. Recent polling shows that most voters who support abortion rights believe abortion is more than a procedure — it is linked to freedom, financial stability, affordable child care and gender equality. It’s crucial for providers to recognize this and maintain an open, honest line of communication with their patients around abortion. This is especially important for Black patients who are subject to stigmatization and barriers that are exacerbated when they work with anti-abortion white supremacists who spread misinformation and racist rhetoric regarding abortion.

To ensure that Black folks are no longer left behind, we need to increase access to reproductive health care, including doctors who are dedicated to thoughtfully discussing all pregnancy options — without assumptions or judgment — so that Black families and other vulnerable communities can have the resources and support that they need to fully thrive. Comprehensive reproductive health care gives us the freedom and autonomy to create our lives as we wish, without any barriers.

Organizations like mine help health care workers and social service workers recognize the implicit biases that we all have in order to create an equitable continuum for reproductive health care. But we can’t make this change on our own.

Black women continue having the worst health outcomes and health professionals continue to ignore us. It’s time for our leaders to center Black folks in health care discussions and invest in an intersectional approach. These racial gaps in healthcare will not disappear unless we collectively end oppressive health systems that restrict Black patients. Providers can provide comprehensive, humane reproductive health care with the right training and investment.