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Abortion rights issue regains momentum

JAZELLE HUNT | 7/13/2015, 10:38 a.m.
When she was five months pregnant, past the point where she could obtain a legal abortion, 23-year-old Kenlissia Jones of ...
Women rally for women’s reproductive rights. Debra Sweet/Flickr/CC BY 2.0/

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – When she was five months pregnant, past the point where she could obtain a legal abortion, 23-year-old Kenlissia Jones of Albany, Georgia, ordered prescription abortion pills from a Canadian website. When Jones started feeling pain, she was rushed to the hospital.

En route, she delivered the fetus in the backseat of her neighbor’s car. The fetus died 30 minutes later. Instead of being comforted in her hour of loss, Jones was arrested at the hospital and charged with murder.

With agonizing stories such as Jones’ in the news, reproductive rights issues are again coming to the forefront of public attention and are certain to be an issue in the upcoming presidential election.

That battle is already being played out at the state level. Since 2010, legislators in 31 states have passed almost 300 abortion-related laws, more than 50 of them in this year alone.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, White women accounted for 55 percent of all legal abortions in 2011. Black women accounted for 37 percent. Still, reproductive policies disproportionately affect African Americans. They report more unintended pregnancies, have a maternal death rate three-times that of White women, and often lack the health insurance that fully covers women’s care.

These new restrictions are changing the circumstances under which abortion is provided and how abortion is accessed. “We are also seeing real access issues, depending on socioeconomic status and racial status,” said Elizabeth Nash, who analyzes state policy at the Guttmacher Institute, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit advocating for reproductive rights.

“Low-income women have fewer resources on which they can rely, and these restrictions are having more of an impact on them,” she continued, adding that middle- and upper-income women can afford the procedure, which typically costs around $500, have flexible jobs that allow for time off, and have the resources to travel if need be.

Data from the Pew Research Center supports the notion that Black people tend to be socially conservative on causes such as gay marriage and abortion, out of religious belief. But according to surveys conducted by In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, a national policy organization, there’s another overlooked factor.

“Overwhelmingly Black Americans, by numbers of 80 to 95 percent, support a women’s right to determine for herself when she will have children, and how she will have those children,” said Dazon Dixon Diallo, founding partner of the In Our Own Voice agenda and founder and president of SisterLove, an Atlanta-based reproductive justice organization.

“Regardless of religion, regardless of political ideology, regardless of education level or income level, and age – Black folks overwhelmingly support statements that, when it comes to abortion, ‘We should trust Black women to make the important decisions about themselves and their families.’”

As part of a new effort to challenge women’s care provisions built into the Affordable Care Act, 31 states have enacted Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers policies, or TRAP laws, which set requirements for abortion clinics and/or medical professionals who perform the procedure.