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'I was 15 during my first abortion' | Addressing racial disparities in abortion

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Black women (38%) had more abortions than white women (33%), nationally, in 2019.

SACRAMENTO, California — If the U.S. Supreme Court allows states to further restrict or even ban abortions, reproductive justice advocates say minority and low-income women will bear the brunt of it.

"We have to look at how systemic racism has impacted barriers to accessing healthcare," said Marcela Howell, founder and president, National Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda. "Even though the Supreme Court made a decision in 1973 to make abortion legal, Congress passed an amendment saying you cannot use your insurance dollars under Medicaid to cover the cost of an abortion. So, for people who are of lower-income, they have that burden of trying to figure out how they're going to be able to cover the cost of the procedure."

Angela Holmes-Poole, from Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood, is a proud mother of three. Before becoming a parent, she experienced four abortions and two miscarriages. She wrote a book, Lukewarm, in 2015 to share her personal stories and to guide young girls in making the best decisions.

Credit: Angela Holmes-Poole

"I was 15 during my first abortion," said Holmes-Poole. "I did not know as much as I know now, when I was younger. So, I have all of my regrets. I've asked for forgiveness from Jesus for my actions. I do not want to point the finger and say you should not have it or you should. I'm not against anyone's rights to their bodies. I just want to be an advocate for the knowledge of protection, contraception and all the above."

According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on national health issues, Black women (38%) had more abortions than white women (33%), nationally, in 2019. 

Additionally, past studies from the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization, shows 49% of abortion patients live below the federal poverty level, 59% of abortions are obtained by women with children, and 60% of abortions are obtained by women in their twenties.

Credit: Guttmacher Institute

"Our healthcare system is failing Black and Brown communities, including abortion," said Liza Fuentes, senior research scientist, Guttmacher Institute. "Structurally, not everyone has the same resources to be able to make the best decision for themselves and their families. Black and Brown communities are far more likely to not have health insurance and severe pay disparities. So, our abilities to have the stability, income and health insurance needed to navigate the health care system is already compromised."

Reproductive justice advocates say some barriers for women of color include "limited access to health care, lack of choices for effective birth control, and schools with ineffective or inadequate sex education." 

Nationwide, groups and organizations, like the Black Women's Reproductive Justice Agenda, are pushing for women in marginalized communities to get more supportive policies that give them full autonomy in deciding if, when and how to become a parent.

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