For years, black and brown communities have lived with limited healthcare protections within both policy and practice. On June 16th, 2021 health equity advocates spoke on the importance of protecting the rights of women to access abortions across the United States through the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 (WHPA). The proposed federal legislation would create a statutory right to provide and receive abortion care, free from medically unnecessary restrictions that single out abortion and impede access, such as additional appointments prior to the operation. Black and Brown communities disproportionately suffer from abortion restrictions, which further exacerbate existing racial health disparities and inequity.
One group that continues to advocate for health equity and is championing this act is the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The principal mission of this organization is to secure equal justice for all through the law, particularly inequities that African-Americans and other racial and ethnic groups face (www.lawyerscommittee.org).
We asked the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to share why WHPA is important to the black community. Natasha Chabria, Associate Counsel within the Economic Justice/Special Litigation & Advocacy department under the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, provided some insights for us:
Chante’ Gamby (CG): What is the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 (WHPA)? How does this Act benefit the African-American community?
Natasha Chabria (NC): The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2021 (WHPA) is federal legislation that would prohibit states from enacting medically unnecessary abortion restrictions and bans. It would act as a bulwark against oppressive state abortion regulations that disproportionately impact Black and Brown people seeking abortion care, particularly those individuals living with low incomes. Under the Act, providers have a right to provide abortion care and their patients have a right to receive that care “free from medically unnecessary restrictions that single out abortion and impede access.”
WHPA will help to mitigate the substantial financial and logistical barriers to abortion care that Black and Brown people currently face, allowing them to more easily exercise reproductive autonomy and realize the economic, medical, and educational benefits that flow from that freedom. Simply put, the Act will enable Black and Brown people to access their constitutional right to an abortion.
CG: How do Black and Brown communities disproportionately suffer from abortion restrictions?
NC: Currently, access to abortion is stratified along economic and racial lines. Those with financial and social resources are more likely to be able to travel great distances on short notice to receive abortion care, while those without resources cannot. Due to centuries of systemic racism and structural discrimination, Black and Brown people are disproportionately likely to live with low incomes, work in jobs with inflexible schedules and without key benefits such as paid sick leave, and have limited access to reproductive healthcare and contraception—factors that, taken together, simultaneously increase the need for abortion care and make such care more difficult to access. Increasingly restrictive state abortion regulations—including outright bans—exacerbate this inequity. Preserving and expanding abortion access is critical to racial health equity.
CG: How can our readers get involved in learning more and supporting legislation for the Women’s Health Protection Act?
NC: Make your voice heard by calling your Senators and Congressional Representatives! WHPA was recently reintroduced in the House and Senate, so it is critically important they hear about the importance of WHPA from their constituents while they consider moving this legislation forward.
CG: Is there any other information that you would like to share with our readers?
NC: The protections encompassed in the Women’s Health Protection Act would ensure that all people, particularly those most impacted by systemic oppression, are able to access abortion care free from medically unnecessary restrictions. At its core, this is about bodily autonomy and the freedom to make our own choices about our bodies and families so we can live in safe and sustainable communities.
To learn more about the advocacy work of the Lawyers’ Committee of Civil Rights Under Law, visit their webpage: https://www.lawyerscommittee.org/
Contact information for Senators and Congressional Representatives can be found at: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm and https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
Chante’ Gamby is a writer passionate about social justice and empowering others to live their healthiest lives. You can follow her on Facebook at Fringefam, Instagram@fringegram, or on her website, www.fringefam.com.