How Geography Will Control Women’s Health After Roe v. Wade

December 04, 2021

Women across the country are struggling to envision a future without abortion rights and with narrowing choices for contraception and reproductive health. Joia Crear Perry, president of the National Birth Equity Collaborative, joined Bloomberg Opinion editor and columnist Sarah Green Carmichael and Kelsey Butler, who covers equality for Bloomberg News, to tackle the big questions surrounding the pending Supreme Court decision after conservative justices signaled they were inclined to severely curtail Roe v. Wade. Bloomberg Opinion health columnist Faye Flam lead the discussion on Twitter Spaces, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Faye Flam: So what has happened in the last week at the Supreme Court?

Kelsey Butler: The Mississippi attorney general has asked the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then pretty much leave it up to each state throughout the country to make up their own regulations on abortion. Anyone that has been watching the case can see that things were heading in this direction, but there were a few moments during oral arguments this week that really suggest a very likely rolling back of abortion rights in this country. So we better prepare for this to happen.

Flam: Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s line has been in the news a lot saying that abortion isn’t necessary because people can just give up their baby for adoption. And this really ignores the fact that there are big risks to pregnancy, that women die in childbirth, and often women seeking abortion have health problems or are in some sort of a health crisis. Sarah, talk to us a little more about pregnancy and how it affects your body and health risks.

Sarah Green Carmichael: Having been through this myself, I was really surprised to hear from Amy Coney Barrett such a cavalier and callous attitude towards childbirth. Even in an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy, it’s still taking a physical toll on your body. Yet this justice, also a mother, suggested that it’s not a big deal to give up your body to this nascent life, to growing this life and then to birthing this life. There’s a lot of pressure on women to pretend that pregnancy doesn’t slow us down because pregnancy discrimination is very real. But I think anyone who has ever been pregnant will admit that the fatigue is real. The nausea is real. The pain is real. And the recovery takes a long time.

Flam: The United States actually has four to six times the number of maternal deaths than seen in some European countries. What are you seeing with this problem, and how are abortion rights connected?

Joia Crear Perry: The United States has the worst maternal mortality rate in the industrialized world. Mississippi, where there’s no access to midwives and doulas, and which has no social safety net for people to have paid leave, also has some of the worst maternal health outcomes in the United States. We don’t have health as a right in this country and a lot of people are uninsured or underinsured. We have the highest rates of maternal mortality because we ignored the social structures and the needs that people have in order to be able to survive and thrive in pregnancy.

Read full conversation here