Money wasted on abortion fights could help struggling Louisianians

Even during a pandemic, our lawmakers won’t focus on our needs

Demonstrators hold banners in an abortion rights rally outside of the Supreme Court as the justices hear oral arguments in the June Medical Services v. Russo case on March 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Louisiana abortion case was the first major abortion case to make it to the Supreme Court after Donald Trump became was elected. On June 29, the court voted 5-4 to overturn the Louisiana law. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

By Pearl Ricks,

Reproductive Justice Action Collective

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court  voted 5-4  to strike down  Louisiana’s admitting privileges law. The majority ruled that Louisiana’s law was essentially identical to a Texas law the court struck down in 2016. The court also ruled that Louisiana providers can go to court to defend the rights and dignity of their patients; who are often unable to do it themselves.

The Supreme Court upheld what many of us already knew: abortion admitting privileges mandates are unconstitutional and add no benefit to patient safety.

Abortions are safer than colonoscopies and wisdom tooth extraction, and only 0.11 percent of patients need hospitalization afterward. Also, in 2017, fewer than 0.3 percent of Louisianians sought abortion care.

Only a small portion of pregnancies end with abortion, and it’s a beautiful reality that some folks who get pregnant and give birth have healthy experiences. However, it’s not true of all pregnancy outcomes. Death from pregnancy, death from labor, infant mortality, miscarriage due to natural causes and our toxic environment make up a substantial portion of pregnancy experiences in Louisiana.

Many Louisiana lawmakers have created policies that are hostile toward their own geographic, religious and social communities. These lawmakers believe we should jump through hoops to be treated fairly, and, as their criticisms of the Supreme Court ruling shows, they are vocal about their plans to keep drafting such legislation and not widen the scope of people they consider when drafting these policies.

Louisiana wasted millions on litigation to crumble our right to health and individual dignity, and even now, in the face of a pandemic, those lawmakers seem unable to focus on the actual issues confronting Louisiana. We all see how deeply impacted we are by unforeseen circumstances, like COVID-19, and we must admit we have a state in need of a priorities overhaul and a far more sustainable budget.

Money, resources, and energy used to oppress the most marginalized in our state could have gone and can still go toward measures to ensure our success.

That energy and money could have helped municipalities and parishes across the state take care of their residents. Louisiana students  have been forced to take classes from home. Imagine lawmakers spending similar energy  on helping students in a state with the lowest home internet rates.What could that kind of tenacity bring to our fractured state healthcare system and all those that rely on it?

Despite there being no shortage of causes to champion that positively impact the state of Louisiana, many of our legislators are obsessed with oppressing and weakening communities across the state.

According to Louisiana’s constitution, a government’s  “only legitimate ends are to secure justice for all, protect peace, protect the rights, and promote the happiness and general welfare of the people.” 

However, in November, Louisianians will be asked to vote on a constitutional amendment that says “nothing in the constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” That amendment aims to remove the peace, rights, happiness, and general welfare of our families, neighbors, and friends. It would explicitly deny abortion as a right and would ensure it’s not funded by the state; though abortion is not funded by Louisiana now.

This amendment stands in opposition to the already secured rights held in our constitution. Our right to a government that will not sentence pregnant people, especially Black pregnant people, across the state to death. A government that will focus on finding solutions to the state’s high Black maternal mortality rates–and thus find solutions to all mortality related to pregnancy. 

Katrina Jackson, the lawmaker behind the admitting privileges law and November’s constitutional amendment uses phrases that would have you believe she’s invested in fighting for the life and health of every person. We cannot allow the preferences of her and her supporters in Louisiana to remove rights, happiness, and general welfare from Louisianians.

Anti-choice legislators are fighting old battles  instead of fighting to ensure the  rights for those who live, work, and love in Louisiana.

Pearl Ricks (they/them) is a reproductive justice and quality of life advocate and activist in Louisiana. Pearl is working to support communities across Louisiana in understanding how we are only as strong as our most vulnerable populations; the connections we all share and how to move towards healthier, safer communities.