Leave women to our own decisions about our futures

The struggle for women to have agency over their own bodies is ages old. The recent Supreme Court decision to severely erode access to abortion across our nation is a giant step backward in that struggle. 

I am out of patience and no longer polite when it comes to other people thinking they have the right to decide my health and my family’s well-being for me. The arrogance of this offends me. 

Even worse, this decision will do more harm to women and their loved ones.

The historic affronts to human dignity faced by all women skew even worse when seeking access to safe reproductive health care options, including abortion. The stark reality is that this Supreme Court decision will expand an existing chasm of health between Black, Brown, and low-income women and women who are white or economically secure.

The inequity of Black maternal health is already unacceptable.An October 2021 report from University of Colorado predicts that banning abortion nationwide would lead to a 21% increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths overall and a 33% increase among Black women. Any increased deaths due to unsafe abortions or attempted abortions would be in addition to these estimates.

Our nation’s health care history is riddled with racism and unequal care for people who are Black, Brown, Asian, Indigenous or, low-income. Why is it okay to make it worse? 

As a proud Latina of Puerto Rican heritage, a loving mother, grandmother, sister, and aunt – and a fierce advocate for health justice – I say: All women have wisdom in their own bodies. Leave us to make our own decisions about our future.

I am president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. We believe that health is a human right and core to human dignity, health justice, and equity. Race, ethnicity, income, and zip code should not dictate which women have the power to decide their own childbearing future.

I am relieved that I live in Connecticut, a state that has affirmed its commitment to the dignity of all women to decide for themselves and get access to a safe abortion if they choose. And that our state has affirmed that it will protect health care providers who care for women coming from other states seeking an abortion.

This is good, but too far from good enough. The reality is that too many Black, Brown, and low-income women who need abortion care that they cannot get in their own states will not be able to become medical tourists and travel to Connecticut.

And here we are again. Women who look like me and who live in the wrong zip code are now back at the end of the line for health justice. It tears my heart apart that we are in this place. I will fight on. As we must all fight on, together.

Frances G. Padilla is president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. She is also the former president and board member of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.