Companies can’t support healthcare equity while backing Florida lawmakers who undermine it | Opinion [Miami Herald]
Miami Herald (FL)
For Floridians, the overturning of Roe v. Wade was the second time this year that people in power sought to take away the most important decision most of us will ever make: whether or not to become a parent. In March anti-abortion state legislators abused their power by passing a 15-week abortion ban — though most Floridians oppose it.
While Floridians still have access to abortion care, the 15-week ban compounds other restrictions passed during the last few years, such as waiting periods and parental notification. As a result, accessing this lifesaving healthcare is difficult, particularly for low-income communities, youth and other marginalized groups. Even worse, it’s possible legislators will move to ban abortion outright.
But the reality is that these right-wing politicians have been bankrolled by corporations that publicly claim to prioritize equity in healthcare, safe communities and ending systemic racism, while funding politicians who remove agency from our communities — ultimately harming women and the most vulnerable.
For example, Florida Blue’s foundation states it is “focused on impacting food security, improving health equity, advancing mental well-being, healthy communities and addressing systemic racism and resulting health disparities.” But Florida Blue and others need to be held accountable for making sizable donations to the very lawmakers who are restricting abortion access, undermining all these laudable goals by forcing people to carry a pregnancy against their will no matter the cost to their health, their family and community.
Healthcare companies, including the Florida Hospital Association, United Health, and Florida Blue — one of the state’s most popular health-insurance companies — have collectively donated more than $1.7 million to these extremist lawmakers. And the figures are likely higher since donations made to political committees are difficult to track. No matter the amount, their contributions have helped create the crisis in abortion care in Florida. It’s time they live up to their stated values and stop supporting politicians who are stripping Floridians of their human rights.
Instead, these corporations should be helping ensure every Floridian gets affordable, quality healthcare, including abortion care, that addresses their needs and allows them to thrive. At the Southern Birth Justice Network, we have seen firsthand how inequities in healthcare access affect already marginalized communities. Maternal morbidity and mortality rates are higher for everyone when abortion access is restricted, but Black and Indigenous people suffer at rates at least two to four times higher than those of their white counterparts. This is why we are working hard to build a workforce of community-based midwives, doulas and other healthcare workers committed to birth justice and to giving communities the resources they need to combat birth inequities.
The restrictive laws passed by anti-abortion politicians not only are medically unnecessary and politically motivated, they create a web of barriers pushing safe and affordable abortion care out of reach for many. Even the American Medical Association (which was founded on anti-abortion principles) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have been vocal in their opposition to the criminalization of abortion.
Racial justice is at the root of reproductive freedom in the United States. We know that abortion bans and restrictions disproportionately affect Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and people with low incomes. And because of systemic racism and structural inequity in this country, these same groups have historically faced inequalities in accessing healthcare, including abortion, prenatal care and preventive care. Forcing people to carry pregnancies to term against their will is cruel and dangerous. Forcing Black and Indigenous people to carry pregnancies to term, when they already experience higher infant mortality rates and pregnancy-related deaths, can be life-threatening in too many cases.
We must not allow a revisionist Supreme Court and politicians to take away life-saving healthcare. We will not stop fighting to ensure that everyone has access to full-spectrum reproductive healthcare from contraception, to abortion, to home birth.
To every corporation proclaiming a commitment to social responsibility: It can no longer be performative.
You must use your vast resources to restore the marginalized communities that have been harmed by restricting access to essential healthcare. Put your money where your mouth is, and make a commitment to exclusively support lawmakers who are addressing racial justice and health equity.
Jamarah Amani is director of the Southern Birth Justice Network in Miami.