Penned by Brenda Wiest, Teamsters 117 Vice President and Legislative Director.
The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs Wade will have far reaching implications in every corner of America. Every woman in our country will be impacted in some way with low-paid working women bearing the brunt of it. Today over 50% of the workforce is female, so the impacts of the decision will be felt in almost every worksite across the country. If you are asking why labor should care about abortion, I want you to consider a few statistics:
A University of Colorado study in 2021, for example, has found that a total ban on the procedure could increase pregnancy-related deaths up to 21% overall and up to 33% for Black women.
“Limitations on access to reproductive healthcare, birth control, and even a shortage of trained medical providers should not be a problem women in the workplace need to confront in one of the richest democracies in the world.”
According to the organization Power To Decide, which helps guide people to available birth control, already more than 19 million women who are of reproductive age live in areas without easy access to health centers offering comprehensive reproductive health services. These women are of predominantly low incomes and are in most critical need of publicly funded birth control. With further abortion restrictions, their situation will worsen, which is especially true for many women of color.
Many advocates on reproductive health issues think overturning Roe v. Wade will further fuel efforts to limit access to birth control. Although the ruling was not explicitly tied to other rights grounded in privacy, activists worry opponents will marshal arguments on privacy to attack birth control or gay marriage. Missouri has already started legislation that would end access to birth control.
Limitations on access to reproductive healthcare, birth control, and even a shortage of trained medical providers should not be a problem women in the workplace need to confront in one of the richest democracies in the world. Women should be able to make decisions about their bodies and their healthcare without interference from the government.
Earnings, retirement, promotions, healthcare, vacation, sick leave – these all are covered by our Union contracts. The decision whether and when to have a child has a tremendous impact on a working family’s earnings, retirement, healthcare, and leave. Currently the US does not offer maternity leave to care for a newborn while the childcare market is broken with the cost of care for 2 kids at times exceeding a worker’s salary and quality childcare difficult to find. In the US, 6 in 10 women who seek abortion are already mothers. We live in an environment that doesn’t support motherhood economically. After covid has disproportionally impacted working mothers, it is particularly sinister to witness the ability of a worker and a mother to plan a family further undermined.
In America today, I cannot think of a single healthcare procedure that elected officials have used the legislative process to take choice away from men. Abortion rights are worker’s rights. The labor movement must take a critical stand and continue the fight for equal access to healthcare for all its members.
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