In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled for the constitutional right to abortion in the United States. Almost 40 years later, this landmark ruling was overturned in a 5-4 decision, marking the beginning of an aggressive campaign against women’s reproductive rights. But this ruling will have far greater consequences for low-income women than for their wealthier counterparts…
How the rich deal with unwanted pregnancies
As far back as the Middle Ages, wealthy women had access to various pharmaceutical contraceptives, methods for inducing miscarriages, and procedures for the termination of pregnancies. Not only was this medical knowledge only accessible to them but they were also afforded the privacy to carry out these practices in their own homes without any of the shame associated with it. On the other hand, poor medieval women who were desperate to get an abortion often turned to ineffective methods such as wearing charms or in worse case scenarios, resorted to infanticide.
This unfair advantage continues centuries later, with speculations that wealthy women can access abortion clinics at hours inaccessible to the general public, allowing them to avoid scrutiny from the public eye.
Under this new law, wealthy women will find more discrete ways to get abortions. One method is by using their powerful connections to find doctors that will classify their abortions as a “miscarriage”. Furthermore, many wealthy women will simply have the funds required to travel out of state where abortion is legal and get the operation done safely. For poorer women, however, this isn’t an option.
How the poor deal with unwanted pregnancies
But what about lower-income women? Women who don’t have the same wealth and connections as their wealthier counterparts will risk their lives by turning to dangerous methods of abortion such as drinking toxic fluids like bleach, inflicting direct injury to the vagina with a foreign body like a coat hanger, or turning to unskilled providers. According to the full-scale report published by the Guttmacher Institute in 2018, more than 22,000 women and girls die each year after carrying out an unsafe abortion. This number is only set to increase after the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. If lucky enough to escape death, these unsafe abortions still carry a high risk of uterine perforation, hemorrhage, or sepsis. Only lower-income and BIPOC women will suffer the bulk of the consequences of this decision.
Stories from real women: Diana
At the age of 20, Diana got pregnant after forgetting to take her birth control one night.
“I was drinking heavily, trying to get through college, waitressing, and scrambling for money for rent, food, health care, tuition, and books. I was also in the worst relationship I have ever been in and it was destroying me. I knew I could not go through with a pregnancy and raise a child in that situation.” she recounts.
“If I couldn’t get an abortion, I would have stayed connected to the father and I could not envision that in my future. I wouldn’t have finished college and I wouldn’t have created the happy life I have now. I had to borrow money for the abortion. I was grateful it was legal.”
Stories from real women: Marty
Marty was also only 20 years old when she got pregnant for the first time.
“I got pregnant because contraception failed. I had gotten sick one day and threw up shortly after taking my birth control so it didn’t have time to take effect that day. But I decided to have an abortion ultimately because I had just gotten out of college and was working minimum wage, and I didn’t fully recognize it then but was also in an abusive relationship. I did it because I knew if I brought another life into the world, they would have a really hard time growing up and I wanted to spare that potential life, and I also wanted more time for myself to live my own life before worrying about being a parent. I was 20 and still very lost and dealing with a lot at the time.”
“If I hadn’t had an abortion, I had concerns about if I’d survive because I was underweight and extremely depressed. I would have to deal more closely with my abusive ex for a much longer amount of time, and we inevitably would have split up and had to deal with parenting separately or fighting over custody. Currently, I’m in school again for something I feel a lot more passionate about and I’m sure that also wouldn’t have been possible. I’m also getting married to someone in a couple of months and I don’t believe we would have ended up together if I hadn’t made the choice I did. I’m doing a lot better in comparison than I was back then so I’m sure it would have further trapped me in poverty for a much longer time. I hate to say but my thought at the time was if I couldn’t have an abortion, I’d probably plan on suicide.”
Abortion saved these two women and allowed them to move on and live their lives the way they wanted. Now, in some states, this option is no longer available.
What we can all do to help
1. Donate to an abortion fund
Abortion funds support women who can’t afford the abortion procedure, travel costs, childcare, and more. You can donate here:
2. Engage with your Member of Congress
When they’re back home and hold them accountable for their stance on abortion here
3. You can take to the streets and protest for what you believe is right
Planned Parenthood, Women’s March, MoveOn, and UltraViolet invite you to march for women’s reproductive rights in these in-person protests here
What to do if you need an abortion
Abortion Finder helps you find assistance for traveling out of state to get an abortion if you live in a state where abortion is illegal. They also offer assistance in finding organizations that offer funding for travel, funding for your abortion, childcare, accommodation, and more.
We are entering a turbulent time for women’s rights, and the attacks are bound to get even more aggressive. It is only if all of us, men and women, take a strong stance on women’s reproductive rights that we’ll be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Here are some concluding words from Diana:
“The overturning of Roe vs. Wade is an assault on the freedom of over half of the population in the United States. Abortion restrictions will now fall even harder on Black, Indigenous and people of color, people already excluded from our health care by racism and economic injustice. Every person in this country should have the right to say: this is my body, my choice.”