How the Overturning of Roe v. Wade Affects Those Suffering From Homelessness

After almost 50 years, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. This federal law protected the rights of women across the country to receive an abortion. Now that many states will make abortion illegal, those who are marginalized, like people suffering from homelessness, will be without a crucial portion of necessary healthcare. 

People experiencing homelessness are more likely to have inferior pregnancy outcomes, for example, higher rates of premature birth, low birth weight infants, and longer infant hospital stays, which can put them in further economic trouble. A study called “Homelessness, housing instability and abortion outcomes at an urban abortion clinic in the United States”  by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology was completed in San Francisco because the city has one of the highest populations of individuals who experience homelessness.  It evaluated the connection between housing status and abortion results among those acquiring an abortion at the Women’s Options Center at San Fransisco General Hospital. It is a safety net hospital that serves those suffering from homelessness, and the state covers the services. The study also compared the time of gestation period of those experiencing being unhoused and those who live in houses. The procedures part of the study included medication abortion, dilated and curettage, and dilation and evacuation up to 24 weeks gestation. Out of the 1,903 qualifying samples, 66 procedures resulted in complications. There is usually an increased likelihood of complications further into each week of gestation. Those experiencing homelessness obtained their abortions later, at 13.3 weeks compared to 9.5 weeks for those with shelter. Having abortions later in gestation, resulted in more complications during the abortion for those experiencing homelessness. 

Why do those who endure home instability receive their abortions later? According to Megan S. Orlando and others in their article, “Homelessness, housing instability and abortion outcomes at an urban abortion clinic in the United States,” “A large cross-sectional study of more than 700 women experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles found much higher rates of ‘unintended’ pregnancy (73%) than approximately half of all pregnancies in the United States.” With most pregnancies being unintended, they can be more difficult to notice. In an article by Kaela Roeder titled, “For people living in poverty, getting an abortion is hard. It’s about to get harder,” Dr. Karen A. Scott, a board-certified OB-GYN, explains, “Some people may not even be aware that they have missed a period because they are concerned about other determinants of health, like how they will find a secure safety, shelter, food, work and nurturing human attachments. Those take precedence, so people sometimes are not aware of what’s happening in their body.” 

Women who experience homelessness also lack resources, support, and access to healthcare and research. They are highly stigmatized, so getting an abortion could threaten their current support systems and relationships. Some youth find themselves experiencing homelessness because they had an abortion, and their family disapproves and banishes them. Others’ reactions to a woman’s termination of pregnancy greatly influences whether or not they get an abortion. In an article by Stephanie Begun and others called, “I Know They Would Kill Me:’ Abortion Attitudes and Experiences Among Youth Experiencing Homelessness,” many had reported that they had or known of others who attempted their abortions. Some did not know the actual cost of an abortion and thought the price was very high or did not know if abortions were legal or where to get one. The article stated, “Each of the 30 youth interviewed in the sample either knew of someone who had attempted and/or completed a self-induced abortion, or at minimum knew of someone who was rumored to have done so.” When they have no access to safe abortion, are at risk of being stigmatized by their partner and family, they have no choice but to induce their abortion. Self-inducing an abortion can be extremely life-threatening, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade will become even more common. 

Even in states where abortion is legal, it is difficult for those enduring homelessness to receive an abortion. A non-profit called All Options Pregnancy Center in Bloomington, Indiana has been providing 60 to 70 requests for abortion funding every week, and they can only fund 30 at a time. Thus, abortion centers are already over capacity, and with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, they are about to be even more crowded with people desperately needing help. Despite the overturning, people will still be acquiring abortions, but the mortality rate will jump because of less access to medically safe procedures. Women need access to abortions without judgment or worry, especially those already marginalized, and experiencing home instability. 

Republicans have been trying to prevent abortions for a long time. Kaela Roeder said, “In 2017, a Republican-led House voted to prevent the District from using local tax dollars to subsidize abortion services for low-income women, limiting access to abortions for low-income women.” In red states like Texas, the law will ban abortion at 6 weeks of pregnancy, and Mississippi will ban abortions at 15 weeks. These bans will create the need for many to travel outside their state to get abortions in states like Illinois, Washington, Ohio, and Maryland. According to federal health data, more than 2/3rds of the people who received an abortion in the D.C. district in 2019 traveled from other states. Many women will have to travel long distances to receive an abortion, and those experiencing homelessness will not have the resources to do so. 

While the future may seem bleak, some lawmakers are trying to secure women’s rights. Council members like Brianne Nadeau and Christina Henderson are trying to protect those who get an abortion and those who help someone get an abortion in a different state. If you would like to do something to help with the cause, you can donate to a local abortion clinic and remember to vote for elected officials that will protect the right to choose. 

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