Reproductive Justice, Human Agency, and Child Well-Being

August 17, 2022 | National

This summer, the United States Supreme Court handed down several rulings which will impact the lives and livelihood of children and families for the next generation.  

We’d like to specifically address the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe vs. Wade in the Dobbs vs. Jackson decision. 

This decision undoes two generations of freedom work by subjugating birthing bodies and forcing them to face a future without choice. The harm from this decision falls hardest on Black and Brown people, specifically those living in low-income communities. To be clear, this decision will make it far more difficult for us to live into the Children’s Defense Fund’s vision of a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive. 

Since the potential for the decision was made public, we have leaned into discussions around it; assessing its implications for America’s children and youth, and the work that we do. The consensus of our discussions made it clear that the time has come for Children’s Defense Fund to take a public position as the impact on birthing people and the need for movement solidarity calls for such. We stand with clarity on a matter so critical to the health and well-being of children and youth. 

Reproductive justice is a human right. 

This is not the first time this country has denied Black and Brown women agency over their own bodies. We must confront the fact that America has never lived up to the ideals of reproductive justice, or any type of justice that values the lives of women of color. 

The longitudinal Turnaway Study, conducted at the University of California, San Francisco, found being denied an abortion often results in outcomes that negatively impact health, finances, and family.  

UCSF further shows that women who were turned away and went on to give birth experienced an increase in household poverty lasting at least four years relative to those who received an abortion. Women of color are already disproportionately poor in the United States, with 25.7 percent of Black women, 24 percent of Hispanic women, and 28.1 percent of Native American women living in poverty. Comparatively, the poverty rate for white women is 11.7 percent and 15.5 percent for all U.S. women. It is not a coincidence that many, if not most, of the those seeking abortions are Black and Brown women, the same women who do not have access to health care, including contraception, and do not have the resources to take care of another child.  

The Turnaway study also found that the children of a mother who was denied an abortion were more likely to live in poverty, more likely to live in a household that receives public assistance, and more likely to live with adults who say they cannot afford food, housing, and transportation. 

While the data may demonstrate bleak statistics, we also acknowledge that Black and Brown women have long managed with the limited resources afforded to them. 

It is time we rid our country of these remnants of polarizing patriarchy—remnants that have degraded the Black family, subjected Black and Brown women to unspeakable acts and now deny pregnant people the right to control their own bodies and outcomes that greatly impact their health and the health and well-being of their children and families. 

As we move forward, we will work to continually frame our advocacy, organizing, and solidarity in this space through the lens of impact for all children, youth, and their families.