Today is International Safe Abortion Day, observed annually on September 28. A global reminder of the importance of safe and legal access to abortion and abortion services — highlighting the need for reproductive rights and underscoring the critical role women’s health plays in society. Except this year, it serves as a somber reminder of the rights stripped away from millions of American women and their families —disproportionately affecting Black women and women of color. 

Recognizing International Safe Abortion Day becomes more crucial due to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark case recognizing the constitutional right to abortion. The decision had far-reaching consequences, reverberating throughout the nation, leaving women’s reproductive rights hanging in the balance. 

Particularly having a profound impact on Black women and women of color, access to safe abortion services intersects with various aspects of their lives, including healthcare, workforce participation, family life, relationships, and mental and emotional health.

Facing Healthcare Disparities

Black women and women of color have long suffered from healthcare disparities, especially regarding reproductive rights. Often facing significant barriers in accessing reproductive healthcare services due to underlying causes like racism and discrimination. Similarly, the causes leading many Black women to consider abortion are deeply rooted and often intergenerational, stemming from a legacy of socioeconomic disadvantages. Over 60 percent of people seeking abortions are people of color and almost half live below the federal poverty line, according to a survey by Guttmacher Institute. Those living in impoverished conditions frequently face barriers, like living in areas where accessing basic health services is more challenging.  So, think about how difficult it is to access reproductive and maternal health services. Moreover, when some Black women seek medical care, they encounter medical and maternal racism, exacerbating their healthcare disparities. 

As a result of these systematic disparities, the lack of affordable and easily accessible abortion services can lead to severe outcomes, such as unintended pregnancies, unsafe attempts at abortion, and adverse health consequences that can purge Black mothers, daughters, and sisters from their homes. 

To paint a bigger picture, let’s take a look at a shocking statistic. According to the National Institute of Health, in 2018, abortions were the cause of 62.7 percent of Black deaths in Pennsylvania. More than half the Black people who died in Pennsylvania suffered from abortion complications. That year, Black abortions represented 28 times more deaths than Black homicides.

Showing Up in the Workforce

Black women have an extensive and significant history within the United States workforce serving as integral parts of the economy and making up the highest group of women in the workforce, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Often working essential roles that are undervalued and underpaid, Black women are disproportionately represented in occupations like cashiers, grocery store workers, and health aides, where job security and compensation are often inadequate. 

For many Black women and women of color, the ability to make choices about their reproductive health is closely tied to their job. Many women find themselves forced to choose between their careers and their personal lives when confronted with an unexpected pregnancy. Many Black women and women of color lack access to adequate healthcare and reproductive services. This lack of access to safe abortion services can limit their options, increasing economic disparities, especially if they have to quit their jobs or take time off without pay. The Center of Disease Control data shows that Black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications, with most complications being preventable. They are more susceptible to conditions that may arise during pregnancy like hypertension, depression and diabetes. 

Black women and women of color should not have to make choices between a safe abortion or preserving their autonomy and economic well-being.

Taking Care of Their Families

Black mothers are the backbone of their families and often the breadwinners for their household. Specifically, more than 4 in 5, or 81.1 percent, of Black mothers are the sole money makers in their homes, according to The Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The impact of restricted abortion access extends to family life and motherhood. 

Women who are unable to access abortion services may face increased challenges in raising and providing for their families. An unintended pregnancy can cause Black women a host of new and unexpected expenses, including prenatal care, hospital bills, baby supplies, and consistent costs related to child-rearing. Black families are statistically more likely to be affected by income disparities and wealth gaps, so added financial burdens can threaten their families economic stability. 

Also, the economic strain of raising a child without adequate support can lead to a cycle of poverty and limited opportunity for both a mother and her child. This can have long-lasting impacts on their finances, education, support networks, careers and career advancements, and more. 

Tending to Relationships

For Black women, the emotional toll resulting from the inability to access abortion services can be profound and layered with unique experiences. Black Women’s emotional challenges can intersect with racial disparities and societal pressures, adding to the emotional impact on their relationships. Women who are unable to make choices about their reproductive health may find themselves in more strained or unhealthy relationships, including abusive partnerships. 

More than 40 percent of Black women in the US experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy. 

They may also grapple with the personal implications of pregnancy and the stigma surrounding abortion from their partners, which can be pronounced for Black women and women of color due to societal stereotypes and expectations. Black women may fear judgment from their own partners and communities or face negative perceptions about their reproductive choices. This added pressure can lead to internalized shame and guilt, contributing to heightened emotional distress within their relationships.

Their Emotional And Mental Health

Black women and women of color face difficulty in accessing adequate mental health support and culturally competent care. Women experience depression twice as much as men, but Black women are half as likely to receive mental health services, according to the Psychiatric Times. The mental and emotional toll of restricted abortion access is profound on these communities. 

Coping with the emotional challenges of an unplanned pregnancy, potential health issues, and a lack of abortion care can be even more difficult when support systems and resources are limited, potentially increasing feelings of isolation and distress.These negative experiences can have lasting effects on mental health, creating a wider gap to existing disparities in healthcare access and outcomes for women of color.

International Safe Abortion Day serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for reproductive rights and healthcare equity. The recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade intensifies this battle, with Black women and women of color bearing most of the consequences. Access to safe and legal abortion is not merely a matter of choice but of equity, autonomy, and health. The impact of restricted abortion access is felt in many ways. As we celebrate this day, it is imperative that we continue to advocate for the rights and well-being of all women, especially those most affected by a lack of resources. 

Aysia Morton, a culture and travel writer, wrote this story.