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Five Opportunities for Philanthropy to Protect and Expand Abortion Access in a Post-Roe v Wade World

In a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court of the United States’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization struck down both Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992). This landmark decision eliminated a person’s constitutional right to abortion and reverses 50 years of federal abortion protection. It also sets the stage to roll back other rulings, including Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Supreme Court said married couples have the right to obtain contraceptives; Lawrence v. Texas, which established the right to engage in private sexual acts; and Obergefell v. Hodges, which defends the right to same-sex marriage.

Destroying the protection of Roe v. Wade threatens our progress toward racial equity while reinforcing systemic racism and white supremacy in the United States. People with resources and power will always be able to access abortion and other health care services. The lack of federal protection of the right to an abortion disproportionately impacts Black and Brown women, the transgender community, and non-binary peoples. The Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson will make it harder or impossible for people who have been historically oppressed and those living in poverty to retain bodily autonomy and receive medically necessary and potentially life-saving procedures.

The Dobbs v. Jackson ruling destabilizes the protections offered by the 14th Amendment's due process and equal protection clauses, which have been pivotal in securing a range of rights and protections for LGBTQ+ folks, women, and people of color. For many, the 14th Amendment was the constitutional amendment that countered the anti-Black and anti-woman nature of the Constitution. If more rulings are undone under the guise of only honoring rights that are “deeply rooted” in our “nation’s history and tradition,” the question becomes, who is afforded rights under this interpretation of the Constitution? Who is being actively excluded?

Regardless of whether a funder is health-focused or not, SoCal Grantmakers and Northern California Grantmakers believe our philanthropic community has an opportunity and responsibility to protect the well-being of women and gender expansive folks, especially Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and people of color. Five opportunities present themselves for immediate action.

1. Fund abortion clinics and reproductive justice

As Bia Vieira noted, philanthropy has the opportunity to “be bold enough to fund what is immediately ahead of us and invest in the long-term work of change-making.” The Women’s Foundation California has been pushing rapid response dollars to reproductive justice partners. The Liberty Hill Foundation has compiled a Reproductive Justice Docket to help guide funds and support toward organizations doing this work on the ground. The Libra Foundation shares cross-cutting partners who work at the forefront of the reproductive justice movement.<

Additionally, the legal right to an abortion does not necessarily mean it’s accessible for all; payment for the service, child care coverage, time off from work, access to transportation, and a means of emotional support, among other elements, are crucial for those seeking treatment. And now, with the only option for legal and safe reproductive care being travel across state lines, all of these needs are amplified. Visit the Guttmacher Institute’s guide on how philanthropy can protect access to abortion by supporting abortion funds and grassroots organizations and investing in abortion-services infrastructure.

2. Expand and ensure abortion access in midterms elections

Though the 1973 decision established a constitutionally protected right to abortion, it never guaranteed access. Efforts to codify Roe have yet to be successful, but ensuring voter engagement in the midterm elections could lead to the reintroduction of more legislation doing just that. And, as the Supreme Court Justices potentially move to undo more precedents, we will need to elect a congressional body willing to codify the rights LGBTQ+, women, and people of color have secured at the federal level.

Investments in civic engagement organizing and mobilization, primarily to support historically disenfranchised communities in getting to the polls, can raise the diversity of groups getting a say in our country’s leadership. Here in California, we hit a record low for primary elections for many reasons, including voter suppression. Protecting and expanding access to abortion will require us to continue the fight for fair elections.

3. Reframe abortion beyond the gender binary

Dominant narratives tend to associate abortion solely with women, when the implications of overturning Roe v. Wade for transgender, gender-non-conforming, and non-binary people are devastating. As Translash founder Imara Jones noted, the narratives against abortion access and trans rights are increasingly one and the same. Ensuring the narrative includes all those who have the ability to get pregnant is not only factual, it includes the experiences of all those seeking abortion care.

It’s also crucial not to lose sight of reproductive justice as a whole — a movement led by Indigenous women, women of color, and trans people. California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health all define reproductive justice as an effort to “ensure all people having the social, political, and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions about their gender, bodies, sexuality, and families for themselves and their communities.”

As philanthropy engages in internal and external dialogue about abortion and reproductive justice at large, we can name abortion concretely in the context of Roe v. Wade, our community must use gender-inclusive language, and shift the narratives on reproductive justice toward securing bodily autonomy for all people.

4. Recognize far-reaching & acute implications, especially for people of color

Many funders might not consider themselves gender justice or health funders or even think this decision impacts their scope of work. However, in reality, the implications of Roe v. Wade are numerous — the economic impacts will be considerable, and this decision will cut across every sector from education to climate to infrastructure. Data shows that states with the most restrictive abortion laws have the “weakest maternal and child health outcomes, and are least likely to invest in at-risk populations.” The vast majority of these restrictive states “rank in the bottom half of states in the comprehensive support they provide to children and their families,” resulting in more children living in poverty and struggling to keep up with early childhood development milestones.

Moreover, this decision will also disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities. The adverse outcomes of being forced to continue an unintendedor dangerous pregnancy affect people of color and those living in poverty at exponentially higher rates. Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native individuals are twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. And as the Movement for Black Lives articulates, “Black women, girls, transgender, and gender non-conforming people have been subjected to a long history of reproductive control rooted in the brutal legacy of enslavement, and denying access to safe, legal abortion services is a continuation of that troubling history.” Additionally, they note that the continued effort to limit legal access to abortions will likely lead to an “expansion of the carceral state…[which] has always been biased against Black people.”

In response to the intersectionality of abortion access, The Libra Foundation invites philanthropy to think more comprehensively about the variety of issue areas they support and recognize the interconnected nature of the systems of oppression we face. 

5. Support California in becoming an abortion sanctuary 

On Friday, June 24th, Governor Newsom signed AB 1666 by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), protecting people in California from civil liability for providing, aiding, or receiving abortion care in the state. This legislation is a response to the efforts of states looking to extend their anti-abortion laws, especially regarding prosecuting patients and doctors seeking reproductive healthcare. Moreover, California has joined a Multi-State Commitment to Reproductive Freedom alongside Oregon and Washington to ensure that the West Coast remains a “safe haven” for people seeking reproductive healthcare, including abortions and contraceptives, and extends the patient and provider protection in all three states. This legislation follows a series of actions California has already taken for reproductive healthcare, including Governor Newsom’s proposed $125 million Reproductive Health Package to help the state prepare for the wave of people from other states seeking reproductive health care and legislation eliminating out-of-pocket costs for abortion services

While California continues to strengthen its commitment to reproductive healthcare and expand access to safe and legal abortions for all people seeking care, there is still more legislation the state can pass to prepare. Last fall, Governor Newsom convened the Future of Abortion Council, a coalition of reproductive rights, health, and justice groups, which proposed a set of policy recommendations to transform California into a “sanctuary for abortion.” The critical legislation suggested by the council and currently moving in the legislature include*: 

  • SB 1142 Abortion services: This legislation would create a state-administered fund to assist patients who face financial barriers to obtaining an abortion and support public research into improving abortion access.
  • AB 2134 Reproductive health care: This bill would set aside money for clinics that provide uncompensated care to low-income patients whose insurance does not cover abortion and contraceptive services.
  • AB 2091 Disclosure of information: Aims to prohibit medical providers and health insurers from sharing information in cases that seek to penalize abortion.
  • AB 2626 Medical Board of California: Seeks to prevent the state medical board from suspending or revoking the license of a physician punished in another state for performing an abortion following California law.
  • AB 1918 California Reproductive Health Service Corps: Aims to form a “reproductive health service corps” for underserved parts of the state.
  • SB 1375 Nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives: abortion and practice standards: This legislation would allow trained nurse practitioners and midwives to perform first-trimester abortions without supervision from a physician. This bill would dramatically increase access to abortion by allowing more health care professionals to provide the procedure.
  • SCA-10 Reproductive freedom: A bill that “...would amend the California Constitution to prohibit the state from denying or interfering with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions, which includes their fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.” Senator Toni G. Atkins introduced this measure (D-San Diego) which is moving through the legislature and will likely appear on the ballot in California’s midterm elections. 

You can read a more detailed breakdown of the legislation above, other policy recommendations, and how California is preparing to be a haven in Cal Matters’ recent article

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