By Karen Stokes
On the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it continues to be at the center of significant controversy. For those who believe in the protection of their reproduction rights, it is a time of mixed emotions.
According to Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Gender Policy Council, Jennifer Klein, the devastating impact of the Supreme Court decision being overturned is really playing out across the country.
“Thanks to Republican elected officials, women’s lives and health are really at risk,” Klein said. “So, 21 states have extreme abortion bans in place; nearly all of those states’ doctors can be charged with a felony for simply doing their jobs. In Texas, a doctor can be imprisoned for life for performing an abortion. This means that 27 million women of reproductive age now live in states with abortion bans: that’s more than 1 in 3 women of reproductive age in this country. Over 380 state bills restricting access to abortion care were introduced just last year and finally Congressional Republicans on the national level have proposed 3 national abortion bans.”
The state bans have been devastating for women’s health. Women are being denied essential medical care needed to preserve their health and to save their lives.
“We see health disparities in maternal health generally, Black women have a higher risk of pregnancy complications and higher rates of maternal mortality these abortion bans across the country have only exacerbated these problems,” Klein said.
Klein cites how women have been turned away from emergency rooms, forced to delay care, travel hundreds of miles for care and even forced to go to court to get the healthcare that they need and this has implications for doctors as well. Doctors are leaving their home states because of laws that make it a crime to practice medicine and interfere with their ability to care for their patients but they give oaths to do so.
“It’s really important for people to understand the real life consequences,” Klein said. “It’s easy to talk about laws and Supreme Court cases. I’m amazed by mothers coming out sharing their stories, sometimes putting them in legal risk.”
One woman, Kate Cox from Texas like dozens of other women who have come forward since the law went into effect, learned after an anatomy scan that her much-wanted pregnancy was non-viable. Her fetus would not survive after birth and, according to Cox’s lawsuit, continuing the pregnancy posed a threat to her health. Cox went to the emergency room four times in a month after receiving the lethal fetal diagnosis. An Austin judge sided with Cox, ruling that she should be allowed to have an abortion. The Supreme Court of Texas put the ruling on hold temporarily, during which time Cox traveled out of state to terminate her pregnancy. Soon after, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled against Cox, saying she would not have qualified to have an abortion under the medical exception.
Almost two dozen women are suing the state of Texas claiming they were denied medically necessary abortions, according to Texas Tribune.
“Having people know what their rights are and how to go about to get the care they need is extremely important,” Klein said. “The President and Vice President have made it clear that the only way to restore the rights that were lost when Roe was overturned is to get federal legislation that would restore these protections.”