The right to choose. A subject that has resumed its debate in politics with butting heads from those who oppose abortion and those who support choice has festered more controversy recently since Texas’ new term-limit restrictions that was put into law back in September.
“Just because something is a right [it] does not make it a reality. Particularly when speaking about economically and socially disadvantaged people who don’t have the privilege that some of us have. So, regardless of the legal right, if you are an individual with a low income or living in a rural area, if you are a BIPOC individual, [meaning] Black, Indigenous or person of color, someone who identifies as LGBTQIA+, if you are a young person that right to abortion really doesn’t mean anything if you can’t access the care either where you live or elsewhere,” says Dr. Serena Floyd, Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington D.C.
Dr. Floyd says about half of the people who identify as women who receive abortions are Black and about one in five women are Hispanic and patients are generally between the ages of 20-29 years old followed by the age group between 30-34 years old. PPMW is split between three locations, one in D.C. and two others in Maryland. She further explains that a little over half of their patients are 100% under the federal poverty level that they know of, meaning that for a family of four patients are making 26,500 dollars per year or less, according to HealthCare.gov.
“People need abortions for many reasons. But at the end of the day regardless of the reason, everyone has a right to control their body which allows them to control their life and their future,” said Dr. Floyd.
The debate that has sprung more national attention in recent months and has left people like Janna Parker, a pro-choice activist from Maryland, disappointed with the instability of policies.
“It’s disappointing that we’re fighting something that was established several years ago for the betterment of women’s health. There are definitely people on both sides of the position that feel as though their opinion and their space is right about this but at the end of the day the focal point has to be about the person who is carrying this child, the situation surrounding it, and their choice to continue on with that particular process in regards to pregnancy,” says Parker.
Most of the people who receive abortions at PPMW are paying out of pocket, Dr. Floyd further explains and the cost of this service does not come cheap. There are a few options patients have to receive this service, such as the abortion pill or a procedure. The abortion pill, Dr. Floyd says costs “in the mid-500 [dollar] range” without insurance or without insurance coverage. The cost for the surgical procedure is not a fixed cost. It starts around the mid-500 dollar range along with the pill, Dr. Floyd says but the price for the procedure increases per week once it gets into the second trimester.
“We know that abortion is safe. It has a less than one percent complication rate, especially when we’re talking about the first trimester which is when approximately 90% of abortions occur. We’ve known that abortion is safe for a very long time and even still abortion beyond the first trimester is also safe and I think the really important thing to highlight is that it is particularly safer than carrying a pregnancy to term and that we also know from evidence,” says Dr. Floyd.
Financial support is offered, Dr. Floyd adds and further explains that there are programs at PPMW and in the community that help with assisting with abortion payments and at times fees for the service is waved at the discretion of the provider in some circumstances.
“The perception is this is an issue that only affects white women. The reality is it impacts women of color [and] it impacts poor people, period. It is an economic reality that comes to access[ing] reproductive contraception, access to maternal health, there is a racial disparity,” said Melanie Campbell, President/CEO of National Coalition of Black Civic Participation.
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control released in 2019, 53.4% of those who had an abortion were black women. Within the U.S., Black women held the highest percentage among other races and ethnicities in 2019, according to the CDC.
“I think when you talk about abortion and Black women, there are other parts you have to bring into this space… The argument of women having control over their bodies for Black women in America has been going on since we stepped foot on this land…This is not a conversation of Black America that is new. It is a conversation that is new in the context of how one would view it,” says Parker.
“The decision about whether and when to become a parent is deeply personal and is one that should only be up to an individual, their partner, their family, regardless of where they are in their pregnancy. Individuals need to be in charge of their medical decisions throughout their pregnancy and they need to have the freedom to make decisions and consultations with the provider based on their own unique circumstances,” said Dr. Floyd.