Jun 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Congressional Black Caucus urges Biden to declare abortion "national emergency"

Photo of women lawmakers holding signs that say "Abortion is essential" at a protest

A large group of House Democrats speak in front of the Supreme Court following the decision overturning Roe v. Wade on June 24. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Congressional Black Caucus is calling on President Biden to declare attacks on abortion a national public health emergency after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday.

Why it matters: The ruling will disproportionately impact Black people, CBC chair Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) stressed in a statement. Black women in the U.S. are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related complications compared to white women.

What she's saying: "The extreme right-wing Supreme Court majority’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the law of the land for 49 years that gave a woman the right to choose, will have far-reaching and painful consequences," Beatty said in her statement.

  • "Moreover, in the midst of a Black maternal mortality crisis, restricting access to abortion care will disproportionately endanger the lives of Black Americans," she added.
  • "Let me be very clear: government-mandated pregnancy is not pro-life, it is pro-policing of women’s bodies."
  • "I, along with members of the [CBC], are co-leading a letter to President Biden urging him to swiftly declare this unprecedented attack on abortion rights and access as the public health the national emergency that it is," she said. "We have seen what life was like pre-Roe v. Wade, and America cannot afford to go back."

Worth noting: In a public letter to Biden this week ahead of the decision, a group of 20 Black women Congress members called on the president "to use any and all executive authorities to address the public health crisis our nation will face if Roe v. Wade is dismantled."

  • "The effects of this decision on the lives and health of Black women and pregnant people will be devastating and require an urgent and whole-of-government response," stated the letter, which was led by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.).

The big picture: Advocates and health care providers have said that forcing Black women to carry pregnancies to term in states that bar abortion access could put them at increased risk.

  • Black women have less access to reproductive resources like prenatal care and are more likely to have miscarriages compared to white women.
  • They also face additional barriers to care due to everyday discrimination in medical settings — such as the dismissal of symptoms and false beliefs about racial differences — that can cause long-term health problems or even endanger their lives.
  • Black (38%) and white (33%) people comprised the largest percentage of reported abortions in 2019, according to data from the CDC.

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