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Abortion Rights

More than half of Black women ages 15-49 live with little to no abortion access

A new report found that 57% of all Black women of reproductive age live in states with abortion bans or impending restrictions.
Protesters march in Atlanta in opposition to Georgia's abortion law on July 23, 2022.
Protesters march in Atlanta on July 23, 2022, in opposition to Georgia's abortion law.Megan Varner / Getty Images file

Nearly 7 million of the country’s 11.8 million Black women of reproductive age live in states with abortion restrictions or plans to implement them, according to a new report from a pair of reproductive rights organizations. 

The report illustrates the number of Black women affected by abortion restrictions across the country. It was released Wednesday by the National Partnership for Women & Families, or NPWF, and the organization In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.

According to the report, 57% of Black women ages 15 to 49 (which the organizations consider reproductive age) live in states with bans or threats to abortion access, which have increased in the two years since the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Jocelyn Frye, president of the NPWF, said in an interview that Black women in those states are “overwhelmingly” concerned about their physical and economic security. 

The report also found that 2.7 million of the Black women of reproductive age living in such states are already “economically insecure” and that 1.4 million of them work in service jobs — which are less likely to provide resources like paid sick days, flexible scheduling and more. They include Black women with disabilities, multiracial Black women, veterans and immigrants. 

“In addition to abortion bans, they’re also concerned about things like economic opportunity and cost of living, racial justice, which are directly tied to the abortion bans,” Frye said.

About 43% of Black women of childbearing age living in states with abortion restrictions or where abortion is under threat are in Texas, Florida and Georgia, three states with some of the toughest laws, according to the report.

That tracks considering Southern states make up a majority of states with abortion restrictions, and most of the nation’s Black population is concentrated in the South. 

“When you look at the experiences of Black women, you can address a lot of different barriers that women face, whether it’s from race, gender — there are also women with disabilities,” Frye said. “Black women are often the bellwether of how well things are working. So when we fix things for Black women, we fix them for a lot of people.”

Nearly 50% of Black women ages 18 to 44 living in states that restrict abortion have spent the last two years since the Supreme Court’s decision weighing difficult options and asking tough questions, according to the report: “Will I live through childbirth if I get pregnant?” “Will I be arrested if I miscarry or need an abortion?” “Should I give up on having children altogether?”

As of May, 14 states have banned abortion and 11 have restricted access to the procedure, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Most recently, Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled last month in favor of an 1864 near-total abortion ban. Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, later signed a repeal of the ban. 

In the months leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion, reproductive justice advocates have pointed out the disproportionate impacts of limited abortion access on Black people. Black people seek abortion care at higher rates, have less access to family planning services and endure poor health, education and economic outcomes as a result, according to the report. 

Frye and Regina Davis Moss, president of In Our Own Voice, said the organizations were intentional about prioritizing Black women in the report, “State Abortion Bans Threaten Nearly 7 Million Black Women, Exacerbate the Existing Black Maternal Mortality Crisis.”

“Part of the history around these issues is that too often the experiences of women of color, specifically Black women, but Latinas, Native women, AAPI women, were ignored,” Davis Moss said. “The assumption was that what works for white women works for everybody.”

Frye and Davis Moss said they believe the abortion bans across the country represent a lack of understanding of the lived experiences of women. Therefore, they said, they hope the report will influence groups, academics and lawmakers broadly to think about and address the consequences of restricting abortion. 

“I want us to move away from a ‘they’ mentality and move towards a ‘we,’ because that’s how we’re going to solve these issues,” Davis Moss said.

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