Women who already face economic hardship and lower access to healthcare, particularly those from minority groups, could end up bearing the brunt of the Supreme Court’s recent abortion ruling, according to some experts.
“Women living in states that ban abortion will have to travel out of state in order to get their procedure,” Cynthia Sanchez, clinical assistant professor of nursing at the University of Southern California, told Seal News.
In its historic decision on Friday, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, officially ending the federal constitutional right to abortion, which was upheld for nearly 50 years.
Many women who come from low-income backgrounds are also women of color, she said. For them, going out of state “may be prohibitively expensive”.
These women may have to save up for the costs of traveling out of state, which would in turn lead to a later-term abortion that is both more expensive and riskier, Sanchez said, citing a 2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, which estimated that 92.7 percent of abortions were performed within 13 weeks of pregnancy.
Women who carry unwanted pregnancies also face financial barriers in the long term, due to the obstacles they must overcome to get the abortion.
“It would make the expense of the abortion higher and cause them to miss more work because of the time/expense of having to go out of state,” Sanchez said.
Eighteen percent of adult African Americans reported fair or poor health status in 2020, compared with 13 percent of white Americans, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
While access to care improved for African Americans between 2011 and 2020, disparities in affordability of health care persist between white and black Americans, according to a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Southern states that have not expanded Medicaid have some of the nation’s highest uninsured rates for all groups, including African Americans, the same report found.
Sanchez noted that some states have suggested restricting access to emergency contraception, which helps prevent women from unwanted pregnancies after they become the victim of rape, “which is barbaric”, she said.
“It is the normal care that any prudent healthcare provider would give to women as part of her care and taking that reassurance from her that she won’t get pregnant after an assault is cruel and should be unconstitutional,” Sanchez said.
The southern US has the largest concentration of black people. In 2019, more than 56 percent of the country’s African Americans lived in the South, while the Midwest and the Northeast each had a 17 percent share of the population, according to the Pew Research Center. A high number of Hispanics and Asian Americans live in the US South and West, a study from the same agency shows.
Women in rural areas and those with less access to healthcare could be disproportionately affected.
“This will be a giant and larger hurdle placed in front of them. Most people who seek abortion care already have children. And they may not have time off work, access to child care, the things they need to be able to leave their community to get constitutionally protected healthcare,” Fatima Goss Graves, an attorney and president of the National Women’s Law Center, told USA Today.
Alicia Modestino, associate professor of public policy and urban affairs and economics at Northeastern University, said that affordable child care is difficult to find in low-income areas.
“Women are huge financial contributors to their family, so it’s not just women that we’re talking about,” Modestino said. “We’re talking about the entire family unit, and because 60 percent of them are moms, that means we’re affecting other children.”
For five years until January 2016, a scientists from the University of California-San Francisco followed the lives of 1,000 women who sought abortions.
The research found that women who must carry an unwanted pregnancy to term are four times likely to live below the federal poverty level.