Abortion access as a racial justice issue


Restrictions on reproductive bodily autonomy — the freedom to decide whether, when, and how to have a child, with whom, and under what circumstances — have long been leveraged to oppress and control persons and communities that are devalued by racist, classist, or ableist societies.1 On June 24, 2022, in the landmark Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, the U.S. Supreme Court revoked the right to abortion. Even though abortion is an essential component of comprehensive reproductive health care that has been protected in the United States for nearly 50 years, future access will be severely limited or denied in the 26 states that have banned or are likely to ban abortion care.

Decisions regarding the legal status of abortion and other reproductive health services reflect the status of civil rights for anyone with the capacity for pregnancy, but they have a particular resonance for Black and Indigenous people living in the United States, who have experienced reproductive oppression for centuries. The Dobbs decision rolls back fundamental rights for many people, and it is a direct assault on efforts to improve racial equity in health care. Indeed, abortion access is fundamentally a racial justice issue. We believe that clinicians, health care delivery systems, and policymakers should approach it as such.

Kozhimannil KB, Hassan A, & Hardeman RR. Abortion access as a racial justice issue. New England Journal of Medicine, 2022. doi: 10.1056/NEJMp2209737

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