By Sheri Williams
As the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that allows states to create their own rules regarding abortion, labor unions in California and across the country spoke in support of the right to reproductive choice.
“Every person has the right to seek and obtain the reproductive care of their choosing,” said Fabrizio Sasso, head of the Sacramento Central Labor Council. “Today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the essential protections offered in Roe v. Wade is a blow not just to women and others seeking reproductive care, but to democracy. Labor will not walk away from this fight.”
The U.S. Supreme Court, led by the conservative majority, struck down national protections for abortion that had been law for nearly 50 years. The decision means that each state can now make its own laws regarding abortion. Twenty-six states are expected to severely restrict the procedure.
In California, however, the state Legislature is moving in the opposite direction, enshrining a women’s right to choice in the state Constitution. California legislators have also set aside funding for the procedure, including aid for those who many need to travel to California for the procedure.
April Verrett, President of SEIU Local 2015, which represents home healthcare workers and others, said, “This decision is directly and deeply related to our work here at SEIU 2015—86% of long term care workers are women, and the majority are women of color. They are part of the communities who will be most profoundly affected by this ruling if it comes to fruition. We have fought for decades for the right to choose and we’re not giving up now.”
Many other unions representing healthcare workers also weighed in with their concerns.
National Nurses United called abortion a basic health care service, and voiced opposition to efforts to restrict patients’ control and choices over their own health care and their own bodies.
“The basic tenets of ethical medical care dictate that patients should enjoy autonomy, self-determination, and dignity over their bodies, their lives, and the health care they receive. Singling out this exception, the right to end a pregnancy, that targets only people with reproductive capacity, is not only bad health policy, it is immoral, discriminatory, misogynist, violent, unacceptable, and violates the nursing ethics we nurses pledge to uphold,” the union said in a statement.
“The Supreme Court’s overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling today in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a shameful and dangerous assault on women, other child-bearing people, and families at a sweeping scale. This decision is part of a coordinated rightwing effort to undo hard-won human and civil rights in the United States, and to control working people by removing their power and bodily autonomy. This decision goes against the beliefs and values of the vast majority of people in the United States and is an attack on democracy itself.
“Abortion is health care. Plain and simple,” said Jean Ross, RN and president of National Nurses United. “It’s outrageous and completely unacceptable to single out this one health care service, that’s only needed by people who can get pregnant, as illegal. We nurses have a duty to always advocate for our patients, and that’s exactly what we’ll continue to do: fight for our patients’ rights to make their own health care decisions and control their own bodies. We won’t rest until this right is restored to all,” the statement read.
The committee of Interns and Residents, part of SEIU which represents doctors and other healthcare professionals, added: The Supreme Court has officially struck down Roe v. Wade and set our country back decades in a decision that has ripped away the right to safe abortion from millions of people. Although we knew this decision was coming, it’s still shocking that women’s fundamental right to bodily autonomy has been taken away.
As doctors, this ruling deeply impairs our ability to treat our patients. We entered medicine to care for people and can now no longer provide the full range of medical care our patients need. That includes abortion. Reproductive rights are an essential part of health care and are critical to a person’s physical, mental, emotional and financial well-being.
This decision is a blow to our public health and safety and is not rooted in any evidence-based facts or reason. It will ultimately lead to significant harm for people who can get pregnant in the form of unsafe back-alley abortions, denied medical care, domestic violence, mental health issues, and more. This is especially true for already marginalized people of color, immigrant, poor, and LGBTQ+ communities.
Now is the time to expand healthcare, not limit it.
In the wake of the decision, a wave of unionization also swept through the ranks of abortion care workers nationwide as they grapple with the dangers and pressures of the job. One group representing workers in the states of Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota is attempting to unionize about 400 Planned Parenthood workers around issues such as low pay. Other efforts are underway in Massachusetts.