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If Roe v. Wade is overturned, birthing people of color likely to be disproportionately impacted

Posted at 6:22 PM, May 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 19:22:38-04

MILWAUKEE — After a draft opinion was leaked suggesting that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, health professional have expressed concern on the disproportional impact the decision could have on birthing people of color.

Shantell Riley is a registered nurse in the Milwaukee area and works with the African American Breastfeeding Network. She also had an abortion in her early 20's.

"There's this awareness of what you're doing, what's happening. You're saying, 'This is the best choice to make because my choices and decisions not only impact me, but will also impact this child that I will bring into this world.' And I knew that's something I wasn't ready to do."

Riley said she made the decision to get an abortion based on her financial situation, her mental and emotional preparedness, and her relationship status at the time.

"To make that choice myself, based upon my individual circumstances, my individual situation and knowing what was best for me," Riley said.

From her experience as a health care professional, she knows the impact of not having that choice can disproportionately affect women of color.

"We already have this disparity as is and you're increasing the risk for us," Riley said about the potential for Roe v. Wade to be overturned.

The University of California San Francisco Medical Center's Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health has studied the barriers to accessing and the impact of being denied an abortion.

"We know from pre-Roe years that women of color have disproportionate access to safe medical care," said Dr. Ushma Upadhyay, an Associate Professor with the University of California San Francisco's Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health.

She said if the Roe v. Wade draft decision becomes final, we would likely see more people seeking out unsafe methods of abortion.

"We have evidence that in the face of greater barriers, people are more likely to resort to harmful means to end their pregnancies," Upadhyay said.

Ultimately, Upadhyay explains women of color would carry the greatest burden of more restrictive abortion laws.

WATCH: Dr. Ushma Upadhyay joins TMJ4 News to talk about where women will turn if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Roe v. Wade: Local doctor weighs in on where women will turn

A separate study from Duke University shows that a total abortion ban would result in a 21% increase in overall pregnancy related deaths, but would increase by 33% for Black birthing people.

"We know that about 60% of people accessing abortion care are people of color, and we also know that people of color live in states that tend to be more restrictive," Upadhyay said. "We are expecting these restriction to disproportionately impact people of color that need access to abortion care. We know people who are forced to carry to term face significant disparities in health care, in maternity care. We know that maternal morbidity rates are much (higher) among Black and Brown women. So, we have a lot to be concerned about."

Riley says because of the choice she made to get an abortion in her 20's, she's been better able to care for the kids she has now and hopes the access she had remains available and safe for others.

"I was able to become a registered nurse and that would have not been as easy," Riley said. "It's kind of hard to even think what my life would've been like if I didn't have access."

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