Justice for Louisianans Means a Future with Abortion Access

Louisiana is an easy place to love.

When I moved to New Orleans at the age of eighteen, I fell in love with the sense of community and mutual support that are baked into our way of life. I fell in love with neighbors who are always looking out for me, and with the way that a trip to the grocery store can turn into a two-hour conversation with a stranger. I fell in love with kayak trips out into the bayou, with community fish fry fundraisers, and with the marching bands that I hear practicing in my neighborhood almost year-round.

But Louisiana often breaks my heart, too. That’s because our elected officials make laws that perpetuate deep inequities for the folks who live here, laws that are often in direct opposition to the actual values of Louisianans.

(Robin Marty / Creative Commons)

Louisiana’s Historical Anti-Abortion Laws

Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the Louisiana state legislature has passed 89 restrictions on abortion care—from banning insurance coverage to medically unnecessary measures such as forced ultrasounds—that just increase cost and delay care.

Even one restriction can cause delays and increase costs, but together these restrictions deliberately pile up to make it nearly impossible for patients to access and afford that care. Louisiana has the undesirable distinction of having more anti-abortion laws on the books than any other state in the U.S. While abortion is technically legal, it does not often feel like it.

The Chokehold of Restrictive Abortion Laws

The New Orleans Abortion Fund was started in 2012 because we care about our neighbors, and we saw what these restrictions were doing to our community. Since then, we’ve helped bridge some of the financial gap for over 1,500 people.

But our support is not enough. It’s not even close.

We listen to stories from our clients every day. The impact of these restrictions on their capacity to access the care they want—the care they’ve already chosen—is undeniable. Our clients are often faced with decisions no one should have to make—skipping meals or utility bills, or even taking out a high-interest predatory loan to afford the health care they need.

Because Louisiana has only three clinics remaining across our entire state, our clients must often drive 4-5 hours just to access their care. I wish everyone in this state could get abortion care when they need it, and I wish they could afford it.

The Supreme Court Takes On June v. Russo

Next week, the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments about a law that will decide just how far states like Louisiana can go to further restrict abortion care. The case is about one of these abortion restrictions here in Louisiana that does nothing for the actual health of people in our state.

What is maddening: This case is identical to one the Supreme Court already ruled on four years ago, when they decided that states were going too far. Yet, we’re back here again.

We are back again fighting over crumbs, when we need to do so much more to improve access to abortion care.

Don’t get me wrong: Winning this case in the Supreme Court matters, both to people in Louisiana and to communities across the country. It’s incredibly important that we don’t further compromise what we have now. But winning this case does nothing to address the deep inequities that already exist for access to abortion care today.

Those inequities fall on the backs of people who are already struggling financially, and those who are already marginalized by our health care system. People of color, queer and trans folks, young people, people who live in rural areas. These folks—our neighbors, our friends, and our clients—already know that abortion being legal does not mean that it’s accessible.

The Need for Lasting Abortion Reform

We need to overhaul our idea of what access to abortion care looks like not just in Louisiana, but across the country. It’s time to get abortion and all reproductive health care out of the courts, out of politics and into our communities where it belongs.

We need to build a vision that is bigger. Our lives and our futures are not up for debate by any court. My hope is that our future includes compassion, support and respect for people who need abortions and for those who provide care. That it includes a government that treats abortion care as a public health priority, including insurance coverage. This future also includes abortion care that respects people’s language needs, their social and cultural backgrounds, their gender identities and their visions for their futures. It must center and uplift people of color. The future I imagine prioritizes affordable and accessible abortion care.

This vision for our future is big because it comes from love. The people and community I love in Louisiana deserve to be treated with dignity and compassion by our government. All of us deserve to live in a state and in a country that does not break our hearts with injustice.

About

Steffani Bangel is the executive director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund.