“Hello and good afternoon. My name is Kathleen Costa and I am here today because the theme of today’s rally – NO President is Above the Law – intersects with all the issues I am working and fighting for. I am a student of social work at Rhode Island College and I work with Higher Ground International in supporting the West African refugee population in Providence. As an Ambassador of Adoption Inequality I support the organization’s mission to bridge the gap created from the racial disparities in adoption in Rhode Island. I am a supporter of reproductive freedom and The Woman Project.
A theme to my work is that 45 years ago, through the Roe v. Wade case, the United States Supreme Court recognized the constitutional right to privacy when making health care decisions related to abortion. The Trump administration is now working to undermine this court ruling.
The Trump administration attempted to ban four teenage immigrants from their constitutional right to have an abortion. In each case government officials refused their requests to go to a clinic to have an abortion, and it took a court order to give make sure they could exercise their right to health care. In the fourth case, the person was denied access to healthcare and required to visit a so-called crisis pregnancy center, an organization that is not a health care provider.
In these four cases, the Trump Administration has used the Office of Refugee Resettlement to undermine Roe v. Wade. We need to hold the Trump administration accountable for ignoring the fact that for 45 years the Supreme Court has held that abortion is a right and it does not depend on immigration status!
In recent years maternal mortality rates have steadily increased in the United States. Black women are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes – one of the widest racial disparities in healthcare. Shalon Irving’s work as a researcher for the Center of Disease Control and Prevention was seeking to understand why so many American women — especially black women — die, or nearly die from complications of pregnancy. Despite this Ms. Irving collapsed and died from complications of high blood pressure 3 weeks after giving birth.
The problem is not race but racism. The systemic problems start with the type of social inequities that Shalon studied — differing access to healthy food, safe drinking water, safe neighborhoods, good schools, decent jobs and reliable transportation. Black women are more likely to be uninsured outside of pregnancy, and thus more likely to start prenatal care later and to lose coverage in the postpartum period. They are more likely to have chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension that make having a baby more dangerous. The hospitals where they give birth are often the products of historical segregation, lower in quality than those where white mothers deliver, with significantly higher rates of life-threatening complications. Those problems are amplified by unconscious biases that are embedded in the medical system, affecting quality of care of black women.
We hear stories across this country – the mother in Nebraska with a history of hypertension who couldn’t get her doctors to believe she was having a heart attack until she had another one. The Florida mother-to-be whose breathing problems were blamed on obesity when in fact her lungs were filling with fluid and her heart was failing. Or Serena Williams who recently shared her near death experience due to complications after giving birth to her daughter. Williams was fortune and states “for others, childbirth can be a death sentence.”
Adoption Inequity is another racial disparity impacting African Americans. In fact, more than 45% of Caucasian children are adopted compared to less than 10% of African American children. This inequity stems from the systematic problems facing this marginalized population. This racial disparity affects the reproductive freedoms of African Americans. Adoption is less of an option for African American women when the likelihood of their children being adopted is so slim and when the treatment of African American children in Foster Care is poor at best. Help Adoption Inequality work to close the gap. The organization will be holding a workshop event at Rhode Island College next month. Please email [email protected] for more information.
In addition to working with Adoption Inequality, we can make changes in Rhode Island that will help improve health outcomes, increase equity and save lives. The Reproductive Health Care Act will protect Rhode Islanders’ reproductive rights by ensuring that their reproductive freedoms remain safe and legal regardless of what happens with Roe v. Wade.
To help us in this fight you can come back here on Wednesday, February 28th at 3:30 pm and join us at the State House. If you can’t be here on Wednesday you can still take action NOW to protect Roe vs. Wade by calling and writing your state senator and representative today. Ask them to bring the Reproductive Health Care Act to the floor for a vote. And while you have a couple of minutes at today’s rally sign a quilt square supporting the Reproductive Health Care Act.
Thank you for coming here today and thank you for taking action with us. “
(video by Steve Alquist, https://upriseri.com/news/activism/2018-02-24-indivisible-ri/)