Access to abortion should not depend on where you live

Amendment 1 is bad for Louisiana

Protesters at the Supreme Court in March 2020, when the justices were hearing arguments in June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. Robin Bravender/States Newsroom

By Petrice Sams-Abiodun

On Tuesday, November 3, we will have the final opportunity to vote on Constitutional Amendment 1, which seeks to add anti-abortion language to the Louisiana State Constitution.

This amendment is dangerous, and confusing. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Amendment 1 would make court challenges to abortion restrictions extremely difficult in Louisiana. It would essentially shut down any legal avenue to overturn these kinds of restrictions. With nowhere to challenge these laws, people could lose access to abortion overnight in our state.

Petrice Sams-Abiodun

Don’t be fooled by the amendment’s confusing language. This measure is being pushed by politicians working with coordinated opposition groups to force their anti-abortion agenda on everyone. While it’s true that a majority of Louisiana residents say that they’re opposed to abortion, we shouldn’t let the majority overrule the rights of the individual woman.

Restrictions on comprehensive health care like Amendment 1 harm all Louisianans, but we know that they most harm marginalized communities — people who already face barriers to accessing health care: Black people and other people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, people with low incomes, and young people. In our current reproductive landscape, we are already experiencing poor health outcomes and indicators for Black, Latinx and low-income women. If there are forced pregnancies, there will be a disproportionate increase in maternal mortality rates and poor child health outcomes.

The passage of Amendment 1 will have future implications for the people of Louisiana. We have seen how state policies and legislation can influence the national landscape of reproductive rights and justice. If passed, it could lead to efforts that block, criminalize or eliminate abortion services. It also could also have the potential for increased levels of criminalization against Black, low-income and other marginalized women.

Access to abortion — and all comprehensive health care — should not depend on who you are, where you live, or how much money you make. As this pandemic rages on and more Louisianans struggle to survive, we — and our elected officials — should be focused on expanding peoples’ rights and access to health care, not taking them away.

Even more than abortion, this is about personal freedom and bodily autonomy: No matter how you feel about abortion, politicians should not have any say in what you can or cannot do with your own body. They have no place in private health care decisions. We trust Louisianans to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. If these extremist politicians succeed in stripping Louisianans of their bodily autonomy, what’s next? What rights will be limited, restricted, or outright stripped of us if Amendment 1 passes and sets this dangerous precedent?

I am a Black woman, a mother and a native of Louisiana that has watched elected officials over the course of my lifetime slowly pass restrictive laws that marginalize people’s access to a range of reproductive healthcare services, including medically accurate sexual education and safe and legal abortions. The people of Louisiana and our children deserve better… and that is why we must vote NO on Constitutional Amendment 1.

Petrice Sams-Abiodun is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for Louisiana with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast