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Women’s Rights to Reproductive Freedom and Health

WHEREAS, The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP") acknowledges reproductive justice as a core principle of civil and human rights and seeks to protect the right of all women, especially African-American women, to exercise their reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy safely; and

WHEREAS, Reproductive rights refer to "the composite of human rights that address matters of sexual and reproductive health." Reproductive rights can be categorized broadly as the rights to (1) "reproductive self-determination," (2) "sexual and reproductive health services, information, and education," and (3) "equality and nondiscrimination"; and

WHEREAS, Reproductive rights, particularly abortion rights, have come under recent attack. In 1973, the Supreme Court established a constitutional right to abortion care in Roe v. Wade. In 2022, in Dobbs v. Jackson, the Supreme Court overruled fifty years of precedent, leaving decisions about abortion services up to the states; and

WHEREAS, Deciding whether and when to have children is vital to women's socioeconomic well- being and health. Considerable research has shown that women who are denied abortion care are more likely to experience gestational diabetes and hypertension, amongst other complications that increase their risk of death from pregnancy. The prevalence of "back alley" abortions that are inherently unsafe is also cause for concern. In fact, a recent study projected that abortion bans would increase the number of U.S. pregnancy-related deaths by 24% nationwide and by 39% for African American women. In addition to the physical risks, women who are denied abortion care face greater levels of stress and an increased risk of developing depressive, bipolar, and anxiety disorders during pregnancy; and

WHEREAS, Abortion bans negatively affect the financial security and social advancement of women. Studies have shown that abortion bans widened the gender pay gap for women with downstream effects on their children, communities, and local and state economies. Women who are denied access to abortion are often unable to complete their educations, participate in the workforce, and contribute adequately to their state and local economies. Consequently, these women experience lower credit scores, increased debt, bankruptcy, and evictions. These economic indicators affect not only abortion-seeking women but also their children, who have a heightened risk of developing behavioral problems, suffering from developmental delays, under- performing in school and experiencing child poverty and neglect; and

WHEREAS, The Dobbs decision immediately triggered a "variegated checkerboard of access to women's healthcare" nationwide. As of January 2023, Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota, and Idaho have banned abortion entirely with no or few exceptions. States like Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Utah follow closely behind with gestational age bans, some of which are being challenged before their respective state supreme courts. In fact, a legal challenge to Florida's 15- week ban is the only thing keeping the South one state shy of a regional ban. New Florida legislation passed on April 14, 2023, that bans abortion after six weeks — before many women know that they are pregnant — is the latest threat to roughly "15 million women of reproductive age who live in abortion-banning states throughout the South, many of whom have previously relied on travel to Florida as an option to access care"; and

WHEREAS, at last count, abortion has remained accessible to residents of Virginia and New Hampshire, but without legal protection. Abortion is unavailable in North Dakota after the state's sole clinic was moved to Minnesota. Finally, states like Indiana, Wyoming, Ohio, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, and North Carolina have legislatures that are hostile to abortion; and

WHEREAS, extremist lawmakers nationwide have taken steps to target not only abortion-seeking women but also their allies. A Texas lawmaker has proposed a bill denying tax breaks to any business that helps employees to pay to leave the state for abortion care. Idaho is considering a law that would withhold dollars from municipal governments that refuse to enforce abortion laws. Furthermore, amid a national healthcare staff shortage, lawmakers nationwide are taking measures to subject abortion providers to criminal prosecution. Wyoming, for example, has one of America's worst physician shortages and may find it even more difficult to recruit doctors if it were to move forward with anti-abortion efforts; and

WHEREAS, abortion access is a racial justice issue. Most of the states that have adopted a total ban on abortion, or have hostile abortion laws, are in the South and the Midwest, where the majority of African Americans live, in areas where large shares of Latino women reside, and in the Plains, where a large Indigenous population exists; and

WHEREAS, a 2019 study found that African American women accounted for roughly 38.4% of abortions in the United States. This number is explained in part by the fact that Black women (1) are more likely to live in "contraception deserts" and are less likely to receive comprehensive sex education — a critical factor in preventing unwanted pregnancies, (2) are disproportionately victims of sexual violence, (3) have the highest maternal mortality rate in the United States and (4) are more likely to be trapped in a cycle of poverty as a result of unintended pregnancies. Moreover, African-American women are disproportionally affected by the socioeconomic and health consequences of abortion banning; and

WHEREAS, on March 30, 2023, the Women's Health Protection Act was reintroduced in the United States House of Representatives. If passed, the Act would re-establish a nationwide right to abortion; and

WHEREAS, there is a real risk that a decision by a single judge could result in a national ban on the use of mifepristone — a drug used in the majority of abortions in the United States. This case has potential consequences in states where the right to abortion has not been limited and would have a disproportionate negative impact on African-American women due to their greater difficulty in accessing and affording surgical abortions; and

WHEREAS, the reversal of Roe v. Wade has substantive and procedural legal implications that stretch far beyond the issue of abortion. As of 2023, at least one sitting Supreme Court Justice has signaled a reevaluation of cases, built on a similar footing to Dobbs, challenging the constitutional right to privacy in areas such as contraception, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage. Additionally, at least one state has launched a legislative attack on state courts in an effort to restrict the power of judges to grant injunctions.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP reaffirms its 2022 resolution for preserving reproductive justice and its 2004 resolution on the March for Life.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP opposes legislation in every state, the District of Columbia, and all territories that seek to undermine the fundamental right to abortion and any other reproductive, civil, and human right.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP supports the passage of the Women's Health Protection Act of 2023.