Ianthe Metzger, director of state media campaigns at Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), spoke to Contraceptive Technology Update about the repercussions of an expected reversal of Roe v. Wade. The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

CTU: From a reproductive health perspective, what do you see as some of the most urgent repercussions in the event the U.S. Supreme Court sides with Mississippi’s abortion ban?

Metzger: The Turnaway Study found that when women are denied abortions, their long-term well-being — and that of their children, if they have them — suffers.1

That burden falls mostly on Black and Latino communities, who, because of redlining and systemically white supremacist housing practices, are disproportionately living in low-income communities, and therefore more likely to struggle to access healthcare.2

Abortion is already often out of reach for these communities, and health outcomes will worsen should more states move to ban abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe. Currently, people have to not only find funds for an abortion, but take time off work, arrange childcare, and, increasingly, travel out of state for abortion care. Abortion restrictions create impossible hurdles that nobody should have to overcome in order to get essential healthcare. If more people are denied abortion, we can expect that more people will be forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and possibly face great personal health risk.

Because of systemic racism in maternal healthcare in the United States, Black women in particular face disproportionate risks that could be deadly. Because of a lack of investment in social support to help Black birthing people thrive, they are three times more likely than white women to die or suffer severe complications during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.

CTU: California’s governor has created the Future of Abortion Council to look at how the state can prepare for increasing numbers of out-of-state patients of abortion services. In what ways are other supportive states and PPFA clinics preparing for possible increases in abortion demands?

Metzger: California has long led the way on abortion access. [In December 2021], the California Future of Abortion Council released its report with recommendations on how to protect and expand abortion access in the state.3

Across the country, abortion providers in supportive states have been preparing for a surge in patients if other states ban abortion. We can also look to Illinois, where Reproductive Health Services (RHS) of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region runs a health center just across the Illinois-Missouri border to serve people who are coming to Illinois. Already, 90% of patients who turn to RHS for abortion flee Missouri — where the state’s abortion restrictions have put abortion out of reach for many people, especially Black and Latino Missourians, people with low incomes, and people who live in rural communities — to receive care in neighboring Illinois. [More information is available] in PPSLR’s Future of Abortion Access in Illinois report.4

CTU: If the Mississippi abortion ban is upheld and other states end most abortion services as well, how can reproductive health providers encourage more people to be proactive with their contraception? For instance, could there be more of a push for women to stock emergency contraception, or could there be an increase in demand for intrauterine devices and other long-acting reversible contraceptives?

Metzger: Given what we’ve already seen in Texas, where abortion is now virtually inaccessible for many, we can expect to see a surge in the number of patients seeking emergency contraception and longer-term birth control options should other hostile states successfully ban abortion. To meet the demand, many of our Texas health centers have expanded access to birth control appointments, and even started distributing take-home empowerment kits, containing emergency contraception, early-detection pregnancy tests, condoms, and information about Texas’s abortion ban, all available at no cost to all patients.5

These resources will, hopefully, help put some health information and assets directly back into patients’ hands without political interference, given that their decision-making and access to the full range of options have been taken away. At the end of the day, Planned Parenthood will always stand up for its patients and will do everything possible to fight against laws that put politicians in control of people’s healthcare decisions.

REFERENCES

  1. Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health. The Turnaway Study.
  2. Odion-Esene B, Witkowski R. What is redlining in real estate? Forbes Advisor. Dec. 7, 2021.
  3. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. California Future of Abortion Council. December 2021.
  4. Reproductive Health Services of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri. Report: The future of abortion access in Illinois. Oct. 13, 2021.
  5. Gomez AM. Texas providers see increased interest in birth control since near-total abortion ban. Kaiser Heath News. Nov. 8, 2021.