Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023 marked the 50th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade supreme court ruling that granted the constitutional right to choose to have an abortion. This landmark decision that became instrumental in women’s rights was overturned by the Supreme Court of the United States last year on June 24, 2022.
Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, reproductive justice has been back at the forefront of the fight towards basic human rights. Reproductive justice is a human rights framework coined by Black leaders nearly 30 years ago. SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective defines it as “The human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” When using the term reproductive justice, a social justice and intersectional analysis must be applied, meaning that we must address how race, class, gender identity, immigration status, disability, location, and other levels of oppression impact our experiences.
On July 20, 2022, Georgia’s 11th Circuit Court ruled to allow HB 481, Georgia’s 6-week abortion ban, to go into effect immediately. This is what’s known as a trigger law – a law that could be enforced only if a key circumstance occurs. In this case, that circumstance was the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. Thirteen states had trigger bans on abortions as of June 2022.
As detailed in the Washington Post, as of July 21st, most people seeking care in Georgia would not be able to receive an abortion once fetal cardiac activity is detected, also known as a “heartbeat bill.” Many women don’t even know they’re pregnant by six weeks. This decision eviscerated access to health care for people who can get pregnant, and sent a clear and terrifying message to Georgians that the freedom to determine if, when, and how to start or grow a family is in the hands of politicians.
Then, in October 2022, a lower court judge in Georgia overturned Georgia’s abortion ban. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney wrote in his ruling that the 6-week ban violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was signed into law by Gov. Kemp in 2019.
However, the following month, the Georgia Supreme Court reinstated the ban after Kemp filed a petition for an emergency stay.
“The governor and attorney general of Georgia are doubling down to control access to reproductive health care, and while the stay was granted, we will not stop fighting until this ban that is steeped in white supremacy is gone,” lead plaintiff in the case, Monica Simpson, the executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective said via a press release from the Center for Reproductive Justice at the time. “All Georgians—including Black women and Queer, trans, low-income, and rural people—should have the freedom to decide to have children, to not have children, and to raise the families they have in thriving communities. We remain undeterred from realizing this vision.”
In addition to being an attack on our personal freedoms, this decision has economic impacts. Advancing New Standards In Reproductive Health (ANSIRH’s) Turnaway Study showed that women who were turned away from abortion access and then gave birth experienced higher rates of household poverty. They were less likely to be able to cover basic necessities like food, transportation costs, and housing and had lower credit scores and increased debt.
As folks look to other ways to get care, like prescription abortion pills, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr continues to try to block women from making their own private decisions about their health care. He was one of 20 attorney generals across the country who signed a letter to the FDA Commissioner opposing a decision to allow the remote prescribing of abortion pills.
But organizations like SisterSong, who filed appeals, and NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia, are continuing to work to protect reproductive rights. We need to work together to stop the merry-go-round of abortion bans impacting Georgia’s families, lowest income women, and all people who can become pregnant.