This series features former foster youth who are Youth Voice writers responding to the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which removed the constitutional right to abortion, leaving the legal decision to each state.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade is absolutely devastating — not just for those who need safe access to abortions, but for a range of unintended, secondary marginalized groups like people of color and people with disabilities, to name a few. These groups tend to already have higher mortality rates while pregnant. Overturning Roe is not just about abortions; it’s affecting healthcare as a whole. Even in states where abortion is still legal and accessible, this Supreme Court decision is policing the lives and bodies of people who have nowhere else to turn.
Many chronically ill and disabled folks rely on medications they no longer have access to, like methotrexate, which is secondarily used as an abortifacient. Methotrexate is primarily used for the treatment of severe chronic illnesses including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. People living with chronic conditions often suffer from debilitating pain and rely on these medications to be able to function. On top of not being able to access medications that help manage their disabilities, people with disabilities are also more likely to have complications during pregnancy than their peers as well. People with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome specifically are nine times more likely to have complications during pregnancy, which can result in fatalities. Even in states where abortion is still protected, insurance companies are denying prescription refills of these medications because of the fear that they will be sued for assisting with an abortion, or that the person will sell the medication to those in need of an abortion who cannot access it.
Due to trauma and higher likelihood of having Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), foster youth are more likely to have chronic illness than their peers who are not in care. Foster youth already live in environments where they have very little control over our own lives and often our bodies, with foster homes forcing us to take birth control or restricted access to doctor’s appointments and healthcare. It is not uncommon for foster homes to deny a placement if the youth does not agree to take birth control, and the access to health care is solely reliant on the foster parents level of engagement. If you have a foster parent that is detached, they will be less inclined to take you to the doctor. I personally had to wait ten years to get a medical diagnosis because I was in homes that didn’t believe I was in pain or didn’t want to do the extra work to take me to the doctor. Placement instability further impacted my ability to get access to the healthcare I needed. The decision to overturn this 50-year-old precedent only leads to even less autonomy over our own lives.
While it doesn’t just affect foster youth, like most major changes in law or society, the marginalized groups get hit the hardest and we need to protect people from further hardship. Foster youth deserve the right to make decisions about our bodies and our identity, as do anyone that is affected by this decision. It isn’t going to stop with Roe, and we deserve better. This decision by the Supreme Court does not save lives, it ends them. Adoption is not and has never been an effective solution to unwanted pregnancy and it doesn’t address the barriers and safety concerns that exist for marginalized groups, especially foster youth and disabled people. We need to have a call for action to protect the right to abortion, and subsequently the right for people to live safe and healthy lives.