After Roe, abortion rights advocate predicts worsening Black maternal mortality crisis

As abortion is banned in many parts of the U.S., it is “unconscionable” to ask states’ pandemic-strapped health care systems to absorb more patients, said Kelly Davis, executive director of New Voices for Reproductive Justice. Davis joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the realities and growing burdens facing many women who seek abortions, and why it’s not so simple as vowing to increase support.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    And joining me now to talk about how her group will respond to today's decision is Kelly Davis. She's executive director for the New Voices for Reproductive Justice. That's a nonprofit working in Ohio and Pennsylvania to help Black women, girls and trans people.

    Kelly Davis, welcome to the "NewsHour." Thank you for joining us.

    Tell me about what this decision means specifically for the people you serve. And what are they telling you today?

    Kelly Davis, New Voices for Reproductive Justice: Well, today is a devastating day.

    But if you're surprised, you haven't been paying attention. As we have heard throughout today's broadcast, folks have been working in concert across this nation to limit folks' humans rights, including access to comprehensive sexual reproductive health care, which includes abortion.

    Across the two states that we represent, we know that those that are most impacted by abortion restrictions are Black women and gender expansive folks.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So let me ask you about Ohio and Pennsylvania, where you also work, because a lot of folks predict now, because of the tightening rules in Ohio, and, as you have just heard, that so-called heartbeat bill just going into effect there, Pennsylvania providers will see a surge of women coming in from Ohio, from West Virginia, from elsewhere.

    Can you handle that? Can other providers handle that? Do you have the resources you need?

  • Kelly Davis:

    Well, for the states where abortion is still legal to absorb the influx of patients from states where abortion is now illegal because of trigger bans, we know that that can't possibly be the case.

    Also, not everyone has the means to be able to travel. Again, folks that are disabled, folks that are living in poverty who do not have access to sick leave or child care are having challenges traveling. Also, to ask a health care system which has been plagued by infectious disease and record numbers of resignations, an ill health care work force, to absorb even more of an influx of patients is morally and epidemiologically unconscionable.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Kelly, you have just heard Michael Gonidakis say that he's confident there are state resources available in Ohio, they will step up, they will support these women. Do you believe that will happen?

  • Kelly Davis:

    No, because it hasn't happened.

    States have had horrible budget deficits because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Ohio, we have children today living in poverty, right? We have an infant formula shortage, right, and so — and a worsening Black maternal morbidity and mortality crisis.

    And that was with Roe being the law of the land. Without it, we all know those things are going to skyrocket, causing widespread death and disability, which means communities of color the most.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, once abortions now, as we know, are essentially banned in Ohio, just give me a real- life example here.

    If there's a woman there, this new heart heartbeat bill has gone into effect, she becomes pregnant, she wants to end her pregnancy, what are her options? What can she do?

  • Kelly Davis:

    Well, I just want to say that a six-week abortion ban is effectively a 100 percent abortion ban, because the vast majority of people do not know that they're pregnant within six weeks of their pregnancy.

    And so now this person, this hypothetical person, but this is the real life for tens of thousands of people across the state, have to secure child care, have to take off of work, sometimes have to travel to neighboring states that require multiple doctor's visits, have to pay out of pocket, right?

    All of those things, we know particularly marginalized groups do not have access to. But that's why we're committed within the reproductive justice movement to giving folks the access that they need wherever abortion is legal today.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Kelly Davis, in the few seconds we have left, how does this change the work you do? What are you doing differently today that you weren't doing before?

  • Kelly Davis:

    It doesn't change anything.

    We're just working smarter, harder, faster, with more commitment and passion now more than ever.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    That is Kelly Davis, executive director of the New Voices for Reproductive Justice, joining us tonight.

    Thank you for joining us.

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