What the SCOTUS Leak Means for Black Women | Opinion

A leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion seems to spell the end of Roe v. Wade, which enshrined abortion as a constitutional right. But the drafted opinion has quickly become about more than a woman's right to choose. Legal scholars and political pundits have speculated that other civil liberties might be threatened by the dismantling of Roe, particularly those rights that use the legal precedent of Roe or any other argument rooted in a constitutional right to privacy.

For Black Americans descended from U.S. chattel slaves, the return of the question of abortion to individual states, like any legal emphasis on "states' rights," will always have dangerous connotations and recall the ways such arguments were used to defend segregation and racism.

But abortion in particular affects the Black community in unique ways, raising the stakes of the debate for our community. Should the Supreme Court indeed do away with Roe, it would unleash legislation in Republican-led states throughout the South that includes criminalizing abortion as well as anyone involved in procuring one. This could potentially spur a new wave of mass incarceration and over-policing of Black women in states with strict abortion laws.

After all, many abortion clinics and related health care facilities are in economically divested, predominately Black urban centers, in both the North and the South. A 2019 report from the Guttmacher Institute found that 28 percent of abortion recipients were Black women, though we make up just 12 percent of American women. According to a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number was even higher: 36 percent of all abortions were obtained by Black women.

Being overrepresented as women getting abortions could now mean being overly represented as women facing criminal charges for them.

And these women would be overwhelmingly young and poor. Nearly half of women getting abortions live below the poverty line.

This is not to say that it's in the interest of our communities to have an open-ended right to abort on demand. Abortion is a complex topic in the Black community. Just 46 percent of Black Americans are pro-choice, according to Gallup, and just 32 percent believe it should be legal in all circumstances.

Still, that doesn't mean that the government should be making this decision without embedding safeguards, especially not in the context of Confederacy-like talking points about states' rights. It's difficult not to see the potential this has to become a stepping stone toward revoking other rights that Southern states were reluctant to honor for Black Americans.

roe v wade
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 03: People march to Washington Square Park to show their support for abortion rights on May 03, 2022 in New York City. A leaked draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito has suggested that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, a historic ruling that gives women in America the ability to legally have abortions. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

After all, even a poor student of history knows that the U.S. Civil War was rooted in the argument that Southern states had the right to uphold white supremacy and undergird white economic empowerment through the ownership and trade of Black Americans.

While it may sound like a conspiracy theory that we might be facing a Supreme Court willing to unravel not just Roe but anti-segregation laws or even the right to interracial marriage, recall that the Supreme Court nominees who will likely co-sign the opinion revoking Roe claimed that Roe was settled law.

Based on data about abortion use, dismantling Roe will disproportionately affect poor Black women. The problem here is, the Right tolerates sympathizers of the Southern Confederacy and simultaneously emboldens Southern states by arguing that abortion is a decision best left to individual states.

We should be vigilant in the face of this combination about a resurgence of the kind of thinking that has been most disastrous for both the descendants of slaves and America in its totality.

Pamela Denise Long is CEO of Youthcentrix® Therapy Services, a business focused on helping organizations implement trauma-informed practices and diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism (DEIA) at the systems level. Denise is creator of "Humane Antiracism," an online training process that puts dialogue and relationships at the center of antiracist problem solving within networks. Connect with Ms. Long online at www.youthcentrix.com or @PDeniseLong on social media.

The views in this article are the writer's own.