CLEVELAND, Ohio — The loss of reproductive freedom could create a larger divide between women of means and those who are marginalized, especially hourly workers and the disabled, say advocates for Cleveland’s communities of color and low-income families.
Losing Roe v. Wade is going to have extremely detrimental and cascading effects for an entire generation of women,” said Chinnye Nkemere, co-founder of Enlightened Solutions, a Cleveland-based social advocacy think tank that examines issues regarding health equity. Nkemere also serves on the board of the abortion clinic Preterm Ohio.
The people most affected by changes in abortion access will be those with the least resources, said Alana Belle, deputy director of Ohio Women’s Alliance, a statewide organization that works for reproductive justice.
“Many low-income workers are hourly employees without much job security, if any,” Belle said in an email. “Before even thinking about raising an additional child, managing the logistics of a full-term pregnancy can be daunting.”
Belle listed some of the many hurdles women face when pregnant: Transportation to and from doctors appointments, insurance co-pays attached to those appointments, along with finding childcare, appointment times compatible with work schedules, and income to support the household when parental leave ‘t available.
Restricting access to abortion will spread underfunded programs such as SNAP benefits even thinner, Belle said. “It will deepen food insecurity for our most vulnerable community members,” Belle said.
Advocates of adoption offer it as an alternative to abortion, but adoption is not as viable for many Black and brown families, Nkemere said. Adoption rates for children of color are lower than for white children.
Black children are overrepresented among foster care youth, noted a 2020 study from the Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center.
In 2018, Black children represented 14% of the total child population but 23% of all kids in foster care, the foundation’s study said.
By comparison, white children represented 50% of the nation’s child population and 44% of those in foster care. Latin and Hispanic children are 25% of the nation’s children, but 21% of youth in foster care.
Nationally, advocates for communities of color and undocumented immigrants have raised specific concerns to the White House about women in those groups accessing abortion across state lines. And state lawmakers have pressed for more federal resources to help manage what many describe as a looming crisis.
Privacy experts worry that law enforcement could use period tracking apps to monitor for abortions and the possibility that embryo destruction could become more difficult for those who have in vitro fertilization.
Will abortion restrictions lead to fewer unmarried couples having unprotected sex? Income or marital status don’t predict readiness for parenthood, Belle said.
“Married/partnered people have abortions,” Belle said. “Financially stable people have abortions. People in their 30s and 40s have abortions. The conversation should be focused on providing comprehensive sexual education and properly equipping people to make fully informed decisions about their own reproductive health.”
For example, data shows a third of Ohio’s abortions in 2019 involved people at least 30 years of age, and about 15% involved married people.
“This is fundamentally an economic issue,” Nkemere said. said. With abortion restrictions in place, “we are essentially making sure that future generations are going to be not as prepared, self determined or upwardly mobile as we need our future to be.”
The landscape in Ohio
In Ohio and across the nation, abortion rates among women of color are higher than those of white women.
For instance, in 2020 in Ohio, 48.1% of the women who sought abortions were Black, 43.8% were white, 4.5% were multi-race, 3.3% were Asian or Pacific Islander and 0.3% were American Indian, according to the state abortion report.
If the state outlaws abortion, Ohio women would have to travel up to 339 miles and could spend $400 or more on driving expenses, according to research by Ohio State University and the University of Cincinnati.
In a 2018 study, researchers in California and Kentucky examined the effect of a 2011 Ohio law regulating how abortion care providers can offer abortion medication, or abortion pills, to their patients.
The study suggests that the lower gestational limit, higher cost, and time and travel burdens exacted by Ohio’s abortion pill law were associated with reduced access among women who were younger, of Black race, less educated, and in lower socioeconomic groups.
A 10-year national study of women who were denied abortions showed that they experienced an increase in household poverty for at least four years, had poorer physical health and a higher likelihood of staying with a violent partner.