If you are Black or Hispanic in a conservative state that already limits access to abortions, you are far more likely than a white woman to have one. And if the U.S. Supreme court allows states to further restrict or even ban abortions, minority women will bear the brunt of it, according to statistics analyzed by The Associated Press.
The potential impact on minority women became all the more clear with the recent leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion suggesting the court’s conservative majority is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion. The draft decision is not yet final but it sent shockwaves through the country. Overturning the Roe v. Wade decision would give states authority to decide abortion’s legality. Roughly half, largely in the South and Midwest, are likely to quickly ban abortion.
When it comes to the effect on minority women, the numbers are unambiguous. In Texas, people of color comprise 59% of the population but 74% of women receiving abortions, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks health statistics.
In Mississippi, they’re 44% of the population and 81% of those receiving abortions. The numbers in Alabama are 35% and 69%. In Louisiana, minorities represent 42% of the population, according to the state Health Department, and about 72% of those receiving abortions.
“Abortion restrictions are racist,” said Cathy Torres, an organizing manager with Frontera Fund, a Texas organization that helps women pay for abortions. “They directly impact people of color, Black, brown, Indigenous people … people who are trying to make ends meet.”
Why the great disparities? Laurie Bertram Roberts, executive director of the Alabama-based Yellowhammer Fund, which provides financial support for women seeking abortion, said women of color in states with restrictive abortion laws often have limited access to health care and a lack of choices for effective birth control. Schools often have ineffective or inadequate sex education.
If abortions are outlawed, those same women — often poor — will likely have the hardest time traveling to distant parts of the country to terminate pregnancies or raising children they might struggle to afford, said Roberts, who is Black and once volunteered at Mississippi’s only abortion clinic.
“We’re talking about folks who are already marginalized,” Roberts said.
Amanda Furdge, who is Black, was one of those women. She was a single, unemployed college student already raising one baby in 2014 when she found out she was pregnant with another. She said she didn’t know how she could afford another child.
She’d had two abortions in Chicago. Getting access to an abortion provider there was no problem, Furdge said. But now she was in Mississippi, having moved home to escape an abusive relationship. Misled by advertising, she first went to a crisis pregnancy center that tried to talk her out of an abortion. By the time she found the abortion clinic, she was too far along to have the procedure.
She’s not surprised by the latest news on the Supreme Court’s likely decision. Most people who aren’t affected don’t consider the stakes.
“People are going to have to vote,” said Furdge, 34, who is happily raising her now 7-year-old son but continues to advocate for women having the right to choose. “People are going to have to put the people in place to make the decisions that align with their values. When they don’t, things like this happen.”
Torres said historically, anti-abortion laws have been crafted in ways that hurt low-income women. She pointed to the Hyde Amendment, a 1980 law that prevents the use of federal funds to pay for abortions except in rare cases.
She also cited the 2021 Texas law that bans abortion after around six weeks of pregnancy. Where she lives, near the U.S.-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, women are forced to travel to obtain abortions and must pass in-state border patrol checkpoints where they have to disclose their citizenship status, she said.
Regardless of what legislators say, Torres insisted, the intent is to target women of color, to control their bodies: “They know who these restrictions are going to affect. They know that, but they don’t care.”
Across the country, U.S. Census Bureau information analyzed by The Associated Press shows fewer Black and Hispanic women have health insurance, especially in states with tight abortion restrictions. For example, in Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, at least 16% of Black women and 36% of Latinas were uninsured in 2019, some of the highest such rates in the country.