MIDSTATE, Pa. (WHTM) — Roe v. Wade, which guarantees the constitutional right to abortion could be overturned this year, based on a draft opinion from the Supreme Court leaked on May 2.
The final decision is weeks away, but experts warn a reversal of the decades-old case would especially impact women of color.
Planned Parenthood Keystone emphasized abortion is still legal and would remain legal in Pennsylvania if Roe v. Wade is overturned. The group’s website announces it on a banner.
However, president and CEO Melissa Reed, said she is still concerned about disproportionate impacts on Black and brown women.
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“We’ve been preparing for this for a long time,” she said. “We are certainly at a crisis point.”
Reed said she was not surprised by the leaked opinion, but she is very worried about the negative impact this could have on communities of color.
“Those communities also see higher rates of infant and maternal mortality,” Reed said.
According to a Pennsylvania Department of Health report, Black women are more than two times as likely to die during pregnancy than white women. Reed worries abortion restrictions could make that worse.
“Already bans to abortion, restrictions to access, harm Black and brown communities disproportionately,” she said.
“Maternal mortality rates are higher in places with more restrictive abortion laws,” Sarah Horvath, an OB-GYN at Penn State Health, said, referencing a study she said was published recently.
Horvath said people of color and low-income women are most impacted by restricted access to abortion because they are often the ones who need reproductive health care the most.
“People of color, poor women, and low-income women certainly do make up a disproportionate share of the folks that end up needing to access abortion care in this country,” she said.
Horvath said the health care system has often failed Black women. According to census data, Black people account for 12 percent of Pennsylvania’s population, but the Pennsylvania Department of Health reports they account for over 40 percent of abortions.
“Why aren’t we helping them to access all of the necessary health care and other resources they need?” Horvath said.
Horvath said more abortion restrictions will deepen health care disparities.
“Folks who have resources are going to be able to travel,” she said.
In Pennsylvania, abortion will not be illegal if Roe is overturned, but that is not the case in some neighboring states like Ohio and West Virginia.
“We’re expecting an additional 8,500 patients coming into Pennsylvania every year,” Reed said.
That could still hurt Pennsylvanians trying to access abortions.
“There will probably be longer wait times,” Horvath said.
The Supreme Court is expected to make a final decision in this case before their term ends in late June or early July.