In 2016, it should be an undeniable fact that restrictions around reproductive health services for women, including access to abortion care and health coverage, serve as a detrimental barrier to full health equity across the nation. From national bills, such as the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits insurance providers from covering abortion services for state and federal employees, as well as bans Medicaid coverage of abortion services, to the most recent attacks on reproductive health centers, including Planned Parenthood Centers; all of which are prime examples of systemic barriers that prohibit reproductive justice and freedom. The lack of access to healthcare and full comprehensive coverage for women, especially in Georgia, represents a serious challenge to women’s bodily autonomy and ability to make choices for herself and her family.
The current political climate highlights how these issues surrounding access to healthcare and reproductive services affect Georgia women. It is estimated that over 600,000 women in Georgia do not have adequate health coverage, owing in part to the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid. Such a failure only further increases the disparities in health and reproductive services available to vulnerable populations of women, such as women of color, Black women, women who have low-income, and queer and trans women. Lack of adequate health care only exacerbates other issues related to sexual and reproductive health, such as the high rates of maternal mortality in Georgia, with 30 deaths occurring per every 100,000 births. Unsurprisingly, these issues affect women along racial and socioeconomic lines, with low-income women of color bearing the brunt of the inequity.
Determining whether or not to have an abortion is never simple because no circumstance exists within a vacuum. Our communities’ make these decisions based on the economic opportunities, health insurance status as well as family and social support. Lack of access to services and coverage increases the complexity of the circumstances and robs women of their agency. Thus is why there is a need to focus statewide efforts on closing the coverage gap and center on Medicaid expansion activities, as well as, changing health care policy in Georgia.
Lack of comprehensive reproductive health services and education can also be seen in the state of Georgia’s funding of crisis pregnancy centers, otherwise known as “fake abortion clinics,” as opposed to funding licensed, medical clinics that provide vital health and reproductive services to women. Not only do these “fake abortion clinics” being endorsed and funded act as decoys and barriers to abortion care services, later abortion care services have also been banned in the state. Georgia, along with Florida, served as one of the only Southern states that provided outpatient abortions after 20 weeks. After the ban, which prohibited abortions after twenty weeks from fertilization, the rate of women who received abortions services after twenty weeks dropped by forty percent. Women are increasingly forced into making decisions that do not serve or represent their needs.
Given that over 84% of women become mothers before the age of 40, it is important that women not only have adequate comprehensive sexual and reproductive and healthcare, but social and economic resources to ensure that they will be able to care and provide for their children. This is why SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW stands with Black women, women of color, queer and trans women. We stand with all women. Ensuring that all women have equitable access to adequate health services will ensure that women will be able to thrive and make choices for themselves and their families, not out of desperation, but based on what is truly best for their lives.