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No Choice for Women of Color

This Saturday, the largest student-run pro-life conference in the country, the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, will be held here at Georgetown. Every single speaker at the conference is white, presumably middle class, and cisgender. In light of Trump’s global abortion gag rule, Friday’s March for Life, and the impressive intersectionality I witnessed from speakers at the Women’s March, I’ve decided to explain how low-income women and women of color specifically are harmed by anti-choice policies.

Low income women are most affected by a lack of access to reproductive healthcare, and women of color are disproportionately likely to come from low-income households. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black, Hispanic, and Native American women have poverty rates that hover around 25 percent, while white women have a 10.3 percent poverty rate.

It’s commonly known that men outearn women; however, white feminism erases the ways in which the pay gap fails to account for further discrepancies in pay by race, which negatively impact both men and women of color. While white women earn 82 cents to the white man’s dollar, white feminist narratives often fail to mention that black women make 65 cents to every white man’s dollar and Latinas make 58 cents to every white man’s dollar. While Asians may stand out for their higher average wages, most studies that address racial disparities in wages do not account for the fact that there is a significant disparity between the wages of East Asian and Southeast Asian women.

This is where intersectionality comes in: sexism, racism, and other oppressive systems interact, making women of color more likely to experience poverty, to have difficulty finding affordable housing, and less likely to be able to afford privatized healthcare, and as a result many women of color rely upon Medicare to meet their healthcare needs.

In light of systematic racism and sexism that women of color experience, and the importance of Medicaid to communities of color, the pro-life movement does a terrible job of addressing how women of color’s reproductive healthcare needs could be met within their ideological framework.

As a result of the 1976 Hyde Amendment, taxpayer dollars do not fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life was at risk. The amendment only affects those on Medicaid, a federal healthcare program for low-income Americans, effectively punishing women for their poverty. When politicians cut funding to Planned Parenthood, they do so by decreasing the amount of Medicaid funding that the nonprofit receives. As a result, when Planned Parenthood clinics are shut down, low income women are often left without a primary provider of health services, and because of the Hyde Amendment, many low income women are unable to get abortions simply because they can’t afford them.

While middle class and wealthy women can turn to other healthcare providers or other abortion clinics, low-income women are often left without critical health services and unable to get abortions because of their socioeconomic status. The effects of defunding Planned Parenthood and Medicaid on women of color cannot be understated, particularly when financial barriers to reproductive healthcare and sexual health resources cause Black and Hispanic women to have higher unintended pregnancy rates and therefore higher rates of abortion.

Planned Parenthood provides critical services essential to women’s healthcare such as mammograms, access to contraceptives, and STD testing and prevention. Frankly, Planned Parenthood saves lives. It’s clear that most Americans support women’s healthcare initiatives, but because of the influence of anti-abortion groups and politicians opposed to funding Planned Parenthood, many women may lose access to basic healthcare coverage, particularly under the Trump administration. To conclude, I have a few questions for pro-life advocates:

  1. What is the pro-life movement doing to improve the quality of life for low-income people of color? Trans women? Indigenous women?

  2. What are pro-life advocates doing to prevent climate change and to protect people living in developing countries who bear the heavy burden of developed countries’ pollution?

  3. How can pro-life advocates support restricting women’s access to fundamental health care like mammograms, access to contraceptives, and STD testing and still claim to be pro-life?

Michelle Bolt is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. She is currently the Communications Director for H*yas for Choice.

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