Published July 1, 2022
We, the undersigned members of the University at Buffalo School of Social Work community, are devastated and outraged at the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned fifty years of constitutional protections for abortion rights for women, girls, and others who can become pregnant.
Reproductive autonomy is fundamental; without the ability to choose whether to have a baby, all people who may become pregnant are relegated to second-class citizenry in this country, subject to the whims of uninformed officials, vulnerable to pregnancy from sexual assault as adults or sexual abuse as children, and powerless if their birth control fails. The ability to choose when to have children allows individuals control over their education, careers, bodies, and, in essence, their lives. Moreover, abortion is essential health care, and there are many situations in which abortion is the safest and most compassionate choice. Pregnancy and childbirth can be lethal, and ambiguities in state laws put doctors in the impossible position of determining how imminent a mother’s death needs to be before they can legally terminate a pregnancy. Thus, this decision is both a human rights violation and a public health crisis that will traumatize millions of individuals and their families.
The decision to eradicate reproductive control is especially concerning in our country, which has the worst maternal and infant mortality rates, the highest child poverty rates, and the worst structural support for parents and families of any “developed” nation in the world – factors that disproportionately affect people of color and low-income families. The United States is one of few developed countries that does not provide universal health care, universal child care, children’s allowance, or sufficient welfare benefits to support families with children. This year has even witnessed a national formula shortage that left parents desperately scrambling for options to feed their infants. As social workers, we understand that the impact of this decision will be felt more by communities that are already marginalized and oppressed, including those living in poverty, people of color, victims of violence, and children.
We will continue to advocate to preserve the rights of all affected by this inhumane decision. We urge our community to do the same: to donate to organizations dedicated to helping pregnant people in states where abortion was immediately or is imminently banned; participate in protests; educate ourselves and others about reproductive justice; vote in local, state, and national elections; and engage in community organizing and advocacy related to reproductive justice and relevant legislative developments. We are hopeful that this decision – which is a tremendous leap backwards for human rights and social justice – will eventually be reversed with our collective action. In the meantime, we will do everything in our power to mitigate the harms done by the recklessness of the Supreme Court Justices who voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
Annette Semanchin Jones
Keith A. Alford
Noelle St. Vil