Who Cares About Poor Women’s Reproductive Health Needs?

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Not the Supreme Court, that’s for sure.

In yesterday’s opinion, the Supreme Court continued its long-standing practice of spitting in the face of poor women who need abortions. It’s already said in Harris v. McRae in 1980 that there’s no constitutional requirement for Medicaid to pay for abortions, even if it comprehensively covers other healthcare needs, including those for men. And 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey, although nominally upholding Roe v. Wade, upheld all of Pennsylvania’s restrictions on abortion that severely restrict poor women’s access to abortion. After all, who has a harder time waiting 24 hours? A poor woman with no means of transportation or with a punch-clock job or a wealthier woman with means to get to clinics, stay overnight when needed, and with a professional job and the flexibility that comes with it?

Yesterday’s decision continues in that vein. How? D&X, the outlawed procedure here, is a procedure that is, further along in the second trimester, often safer than the more standard D&E for a variety of medical reasons. Who’s more likely to need an abortion later in pregnancy? Poor women. By definition, they have a harder time accessing money to pay for an abortion (thanks Harris v. McRae!), which pushes them later into the pregnancy by the time they have found money or contacted their local abortion fund for assistance. They are also less likely to have adequate medical care to determine their options early on in pregnancy, which also pushes them later into the pregnancy to have the abortion.   Later in the pregnancy, D&X is sometimes safer for them.

But after yesterday, they can’t have that often-safer procedure. But then again, who really cares about poor women’s reproductive health needs?

– David S. Cohen

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