Excerpted From: Kira Eidson, Addressing the Black Mortality Crisis in the Wake of Dobbs: A Reproductive Justice Policy Framework, 24 Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law 929 (Spring, 2023) (234 Footnotes) (Full Document)


KiraEidsonThe United States (U.S.) was a dangerous place for Black women to give birth before the Supreme Court decided Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health. Prior to Dobbs, Black women in America were dying from pregnancy-related causes at rates more than double the already high national average. The Dobbs decision is expected to worsen America's maternal mortality crisis, and existing policy is insufficient to respond to this seismic change in the reproductive rights landscape. In order to mitigate a considerable rise in maternal mortality among Black people who can become pregnant and give birth, states with abortion restrictions or bans must implement a comprehensive policy framework to advance reproductive justice.

Section I of this Note explains how abortion restrictions are linked to increased rates of maternal mortality, while access to abortion improves maternal outcomes. Section II articulates how maternal mortality and morbidity disproportionately affect Black people who can become pregnant and give birth; explains that this disparity is not a result of race, but racism; and argues that framing poor maternal outcomes as a product of race instead of racism impermissibly excuses inaction. Section III argues that existing policies to address the maternal mortality crisis are insufficient in the wake of Dobbs because they fail to connect abortion access to maternal outcomes. The section discusses examples of how existing policy falls short, and how it can be improved. Finally, Section IV suggests that a reproductive justice policy framework can best address maternal mortality in a post-Dobbs America because it would respond to racial disparities in outcomes, promote healthcare access, and save lives. The section provides policy recommendations and highlights topics that cannot be erased from discussions about how to address America's maternal health crisis.

[ . . .]

As states continue to implement abortion restrictions and bans in response to the Dobbs decision, the maternal health crisis will worsen, particularly for Black people who can become pregnant and give birth. To realize the goals of reproductive justice--that everyone have access to the opportunity to determine if, when, and how to build their lives and families-- it is imperative that policymakers act now to mitigate the effects Dobbs will have on maternal outcomes.

J.D. Candidate at Georgetown University Law Center, Class of 2024; Trinity College (CT), B.A. in Public Policy and Law.