The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States to annul the constitutional right of women to decide to have an abortion, if they need one, opens the door not only to barriers to having the procedure, but also complicates the panorama of reproduction and contraception in general.
And Latinas will be in the eye of this political and health storm. Why? For many reasons, among them, they are already a more vulnerable group, with barriers ranging from economic to language. Large populations of Latinos live in states that have already begun to enact more restrictive laws, such as Texas and Florida, and many of the Hispanics are undocumented, which also restricts their ability to receive care.
Contrary to what is popularly believed, that Latinos are conservative when it comes to discussing reproductive health, a survey by the Pew Hispanic Center revealed that, in 2021, 58% of Hispanics believed that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
In that work, Adrienne Mansanares, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains area, described with the word “terror” the large number of women from Texas who sought an abortion in Colorado, New Mexico or Nevada. And this was before the Supreme Court decision.
In Texas, about 42% of women of childbearing age are Hispanic.
Health centers that perform abortions, and the doctors who perform them, could now be penalized in states with restrictive laws like Texas.
Even a genetic complication diagnosed in the fetus, which represents a high percentage of the reasons why a woman decides to have an abortion, would now represent an additional painful problem for families.
Most genetic testing can be done as early as the 15th week of pregnancy, and several states will ban it as early as the 13th week.
Access to contraceptive services, and to the pill that can induce an abortion, will also be limited. In this regard, President Joe Biden said that he would act to ensure that women can cross state lines to have an abortion, and to guarantee free access to the abortion pill,
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which monitors reproductive health policy, 26 states are likely to ban or severely restrict abortion.
What is Roe vs Wade
In 1969, Norma McCorvey was 21 years old and pregnant with her third child, the product of a casual relationship. Her first daughter did not live with her and she had given her second son up for adoption.
Living a complex life — her father abandoned the family and her mother a violent alcoholic — McCorvey, who suffered from depression, tried to have an abortion in Dallas, Texas, but the few clinics that performed the procedure had been closed by authorities.
Still pregnant, she was referred to two attorneys who were looking for cases like hers—women attempting abortions—and, under the fictitious name of Jane Roe, the lawsuit against Henry Wade, then the Dallas County District Attorney, went all the way. judicial instances until reaching the historic decision of the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973.
McCorvey never attended a court session and in the midst of the legal battle she gave birth to her baby, who was also given up for adoption. Over the years, she declared that she had been used by ambitious lawyers, and became the face of anti-abortion groups. She died in February 2017 of heart failure at the age of 69.
The Roe vs. Wade ruling made the practice of abortion legal throughout the country, although the states always maintained the power to decide on which instances to practice it, and at what point in the pregnancy.
Until the 1973 ruling, abortion was prohibited nationwide, so women who needed the procedure ended up, if they had money, on a doctor’s table who performed it outside the law, or in the hands of unscrupulous people without medical skills, who performed abortions in unhygienic settings.
The legal route since 1973
The Supreme Court’s decision did not stop states that have been historically against abortion from imposing restrictions. In fact, traditionally conservatives like Mississippi and Alabama continued to challenge the law in court, suing entities like Planned Parenthood or the Women’s Health Organization.
Dozens of cases have circulated through different judicial circuits in the country since that historic law. Meanwhile, the fate of women in need of an abortion has depended on where they live.
In May 2022, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the parties to one of these lawsuits, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to review the constitutionality of the Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation.
Finally, on June 24, by 6 votes against 3, the Supreme Court decided to annul a right acquired almost 50 years ago: the freedom of women to be able to decide about their bodies, seek an abortion if necessary, and be treated in centers quality doctors.
Note: this story interchangeably mentions Hispanics and Latinos as synonyms. This demographic can be of any race.