Political Issues

This New Abortion Law Doesn’t Affect Rich People—And Definitely Hurts the Most Vulnerable

Kara Jillian Brown

Photo: Hope Medical Center for Women / W+G Creative
When Kathaleen Pittman learned that her state of Louisiana voted to amend the state constitution to limit abortion protections, she wasn’t surprised. Amendment 1 is meaningless unless Roe v. Wade is overturned. But as an administrator at Hope Medical Group for Women in Shreveport, Pittman believes it could happen, especially considering the recent confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

“Passage of this amendment makes it even more difficult to obtain an abortion, even in cases of rape or incest,” says Pittman, noting  as a worrisome development for reproductive rights. “Once again our poor and marginalized communities will be affected most. Politicians and families with means will do what they have always done—send their loved ones out of state for abortion care. Louisiana women already struggling to care for their families will be the ones to suffer.”

The passage of Amendment 1 in Louisiana means the state’s constitution now bears language stating that Roe v. Wade does not protect the right to an abortion or require the funding of an abortion. “To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion,” reads Amendment 1. This is a trigger law, explains Rachel Fey, senior director of public policy at Power to Decide.

“If Roe v. Wade were to be invalidated by the Supreme Court, that takes it back to the states’ right. And some states have illegal laws on the books right now that say abortion is illegal in all cases,” says Fey. “What I mean by illegal is because of Roe v. Wade, those are unenforceable.”

There are 21 other states that have trigger laws. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Louisiana abortion laws already existed to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Tuesday’s vote means that the state now joins Alabama, Tennessee, and West Virginia with a constitution that explicitly does not secure the right to abortion.

A full abortion ban would prevent medically necessary abortions, putting the health of Louisiana mothers at risk. Pittman finds this particularly egregious in light of the state’s high maternal mortality rate, which is 25.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. (The national rate is 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.)

Even without this law in place, it is extremely difficult to get an abortion in Louisiana. On Wednesday, the atmosphere around Hope was very subdued.

“As results of the election unfolded we were dismayed on so many levels,” says Pittman. “There was so much misinformation surrounding Amendment 1 and seeing the current U.S. president had not been totally repudiated was heartbreaking. I don’t think anyone could have anticipated [this happening in] 2020. But then the erosion of reproductive rights since the mid-1990s is unconscionable.”

Hope Medical Group for Women is one of three remaining abortion care providers in a state where an estimated 20 percent of the residents live in poverty. If Roe v. Wade is overturned and abortion is banned in Louisiana, Pittman knows that some residents will still have access to abortion care. But many more of them won’t.

“Before Roe, and even after Roe, when abortion care was still very limited, families with financial means could afford to send daughters out of state to receive abortion care,” says Pittman. “If abortion in Louisiana becomes illegal, this will happen again. Women of limited financial means will be forced to continue pregnancies they cannot afford, continuing the cycle of poverty. This is even more infuriating given our state’s maternal mortality rate.”

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