COMMENTARY: On The 50th Anniversary Of Landmark Abortion Decision, Legality Alone Is Not Enough

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Marc H. Morial President and CEO National Urban League

by Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League
Overturning Roe and outlawing abortions will never make them go away. It only makes them more dangerous, especially for the poor and marginalized. People will die because of this decision. And we will never stop until abortion rights are restored in the United States of America. — Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Fifty years ago, women across the country celebrated the infamous Roe v. Wade decision that recognized the constitutional right for people to have an abortion. Now, after decades of scheming, right-wing politicians finally have forced their unpopular agenda on the rest of America. They have decided that the government—not pregnant people and their doctors —should make a private health care decision and deny women the right to control their own bodies and futures.
Since the Supreme Court made its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last June, nearly half the states in the country have either outlawed abortion services or placed heavy restrictions around abortion access. This decision put important health care decisions out of the reach of millions of women and violated their right to decide what happens to their own bodies. Access to safe abortion services have proven over time to discourage women from exploring unsafe methods to end their pregnancies, a reality that has mostly impacted Black women and women in underserved communities.
Black women are four times more likely to die as a result of childbirth than white women, according to American Medical Association. Meanwhile, due to racialized income and wealth disparities, inequitable access to medical care, and the other insidious ways manifestations of structural racism, people of color are more likely to require abortion care and but are less likely to be able to afford out-of-state travel to obtain care if it is outlawed in their state. 
Forcing women to carry pregnancies against their will can have devastating and lasting consequences for them and their family and push women and families deeper into poverty. Our health care system already fails Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, and barriers to abortion care make that worse.

As we continue to navigate this crisis, we must not settle for legality. Legality alone will not ensure everyone can get the abortion care they need. We must aim for abortion justice and fight for that justice in our communities, city halls, state legislatures, in Congress, and the White House. We need bold solutions like the Women’s Health Protection Act to codify the right to an abortion into federal law and ensure all pregnant persons can make personal health decisions without government interference.
So, this weekend, the 50th anniversary of the landmark decision, we stand with all women in solidarity in the fight to protect women’s rights. The devastating decision to overturn Roe will reverberate for future generations of women and girls who would need access to such an essential service. Abortion access is an economic and racial justice issue, and I am proud to say that the National Urban League will continue to fight for the reproductive rights of women and the civil rights of all of us.

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Author Profile

Marc H. Morial is President and CEO of the National Urban League. He was a Louisiana State Senator from 1992-1994, and served as mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002. Morial is an Executive Committee member of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Black Leadership Forum and Leadership, and is a Board Member of both the Muhammad Ali Center and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.