We strongly condemn the five members of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) who voted to overturn Roe when issuing their opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson. While we are not surprised by this decision given the leak of the draft opinion in early May, it is incomprehensible how five justices could so callously eliminate a right to an important health care service like abortion. In Wisconsin, this means that abortion services will be unavailable while courts determine whether an 1849 law that makes performing an abortion a crime is enforceable. The SCOTUS decision will not only have devastating consequences for sexual violence survivors, but the impacts will fall disproportionately on Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, who will now be denied access to safe abortion services.
We have long identified reproductive health, including access to abortion, as a critical issue for survivors and as the basis for sexual violence prevention. This includes concepts such as empowerment, body autonomy, and consent, which are pivotal to both sexual violence prevention reproductive health. Individuals need to have decision-making authority over their own bodies, whether it is the choice to participate in sexual activity, to use birth control, or to terminate a pregnancy. By restricting access to abortion, we send a strong message to pregnant people that your body is not your own.
In addition to its long-lasting trauma, sexual violence is about domination and control over another person’s body. Consequently, it is important to offer survivors opportunities to regain that control by empowering them to make their own decisions – particularly regarding their body and reproductive health. It is estimated 5% of rapes result in pregnancy, which equates to 32,000 pregnancies per year. By overturning Roe, SCOTUS limits the ability for survivors to make decisions after an assault. A survivor who becomes pregnant after an assault may be forced to seek an unregulated abortion or to carry their perpetrator’s child to term. As a result, the Dobbs decision re-victimizes survivors and impedes their long-term recovery.
The impacts of the SCOTUS decision today will disproportionately fall on BIPOC communities, who have long-faced barriers in accessing the full range of reproductive health care services, including abortion. This is further compounded by disparities that impact BIPOC survivors, including the disproportionate burden of sexual violence, a lack of culturally responsive advocacy services, and increased barriers in social, health and legal systems. With the introduction of laws in other states that criminalize abortion access, it is safe to assume that BIPOC communities are more likely to be targeted given the well-documented racial disparities in the criminal legal system.
While today is a dark day in our country’s history, WCASA will continue to stand with our partners who will be coordinating responses to the Dobbs decision, and we will continue to support policies that give survivors full access to decisions related to their reproductive health care – including abortion.