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Maternal health organization fears leaked anti-abortion legislation’s impact on marginalized groups

Published: May. 4, 2022 at 11:27 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - For Kenda Sutton-El, the reproductive rights guaranteed by Roe V. Wade serve as the foundation for her current life’s work.

“Roe V. Wade has never been the ceiling; it’s always been the floor for us,” Sutton-El said. “Just because abortion is legal doesn’t mean that people have access to it.”

Sutton-El says lack of access is particularly problematic for underserved populations, so she founded the maternal health organization Birth in Color RVA.

“We specifically work and center ourselves around people of color, their needs and putting their voices to the forefront,” Sutton El said.

Sutton-El believes legislators must understand that reproductive health - especially the populations she serves - goes beyond the costs and access to safe and legal abortions.

According to the Abortion Surveillance Document created by the CDC, in 2019, there was a total of 629,898 abortions from 49 reporting areas. Of those 49 areas, 30 areas that reported race, reported race by ethnicity data, with non-Hispanic White women and non-Hispanic Black women accounting for the largest percentages of all abortions at 33.4% and 38.4%, respectively.

“Black children are two times more likely to die before the age of 1-year-old,” Sutton-El said. “Black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth than their white counterparts. So, if we’re going to talk about it, let’s talk about how abortion is healthcare. Maternal health is healthcare.”

But Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobbs says it doesn’t change that there are alternatives to abortion in the commonwealth.

“In Virginia, there are twice as many pregnancy care centers as abortion facilities. These centers provide approximately $3,000,000 in free services and support to women annually. Anything from diapers to housing is available for women who have needs during and after their pregnancy,” Cobb said in a statement.

Sutton-El believes that though those services may serve a need, they don’t adequately address all situations.

“What are we doing about the social determinacies of health? How are we supporting these people who are in marginalized groups?” Sutton-El said. “Whether it’s childbirth or abortion, we’re continuing to connect with those resources to make sure that people are getting the services that they actually need.”

Thursday, the Virginia Equity Alliance will be holding a virtual town hall on abortion rights from 7-8:30 p.m. If you would like to RSVP, you can do so HERE. For more information on pregnancy centers in Virginia, you can click HERE.

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