By: Carol Joyner
Executive Director
Family Values @ Work Action

June 24th marks the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to end Roe v. Wade.  So far, 30 states have banned or severely restricted access to abortion. The ban’s effect on maternal health and family economic stability has sent shock waves through the political and electoral landscape. One year after Dobbs it is clear that abortion is self-care, healthcare, and family care.

Self-care is “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider”. Reproductive choice is essential for individuals to plan their lives, pursue educational or career goals and maintain their general well-being. 

Safe and legal abortion services are crucial, especially for protecting the lives of people who may face serious risks or complications during pregnancy. A relationship between  abortion restrictions and maternal mortalities is emerging. For example, South Carolina had the highest number of abortion restrictions (14) and a 300% increase in maternal mortality. Restricting abortion rights further will only worsen outcomes. The dangerous convergence of abortion bans, unaffordable healthcare, and racial health disparities threaten the lives of Black women particularly who are three times more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts. 

Family care is essential, yet the U.S. lacks comprehensive support. Only about 23% of U.S. employers offer paid family leave and 42% offer medical leave. Policies like the Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) don’t fill the gap because it excludes nearly half the population and is unpaid. Currently,12 states and DC have either enacted or implemented paid leave laws, and 18 states have paid sick and safe days laws. Most of these states have maintained the right to abortion in state law. 

The political stagnation to expand paid leave amidst the limiting of abortion care has been surreal. Abortion opponents have sought to restrict paid time off for fear that it will permit women the time to travel for abortion care. Other opponents of abortion rights claim that states should pass family care policies in order to demonstrate support for women. Neither approach has gotten much traction as none of the 30 states with abortion bans or restrictions have enacted a paid leave law. One minor exception is North Carolina, where the state legislature included a very limited parental leave law (for state employees only) in their 12 week abortion ban override from the Governor’s veto. Some believe this cynical tactic was included to counter predictable electoral fall out by suburban women voters. 

How we talk about abortion matters. Abortion is self-care, health care and family care.