By Madelaine Church and Steven Gutierrez | Special to The OBSERVER
A November ballot initiative asks Sacramento and California voters whether to make access to abortions and contraceptives a right in our state constitution.
The ballot is particularly important to women of color, specifically Black women. Studies show they experience the most medical disadvantages when it comes to pregnancy or childbirth. Black women are disproportionately affected by lack of access to reproductive health care.
On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, diminishing reproductive rights that had been active for nearly 50 years. The decision left the choice to curtail ban, or allow abortion up to the states. According to the New York Times, 18 states have banned or restricted abortion since the Surpreme Court’s decision.
The reversal of Roe v. Wade left many abortion rights supporters in a state of fear, confusion, and anger.
“I was kind of surprised that they did that,” said Sacramento State student Ami Henry. “I didn’t think something like that would happen, given that it’s 2022.”
Sacramento State student Odalis Saucedo said she felt enraged and frightened when she heard about the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “It made me scared that they were able to overturn something after it was set for so long,” said Saucedo.
It is very common for Black women to experience sexual assualt throughout their lifetime. According to a study by ujimacommunity.org, 1 in 4 Black women experience sexual assault before the age of 18 and 1 out of 5 Black women experience rape. Sex trafficking has become very common in Sacramento County; between 2015 and 2020, more than 13,000 victims were reported. According to the Sacramento Bee, researchers found that Black women have been the most targeted as sex trafficking vicitms. They accounted for 50% of identified victims.
“As a Black woman, we are not on the high priority of getting protected by police enforcement, and I would just end up as another Black girl in the statistics,” said Sac State grad student RaNet Fitzpatrick. “I try my best to be aware of my surroundings because Sacramento is definitely a hotspot of sex trafficking and it’s important we have options for women who are in need of an abortion.”
Proponents of Proposition 1 say that abortions already are protected in the state’s laws, but note that the proposition would add extra protection by codifying these rights into the state’s constitution.
Molly Weedn, communications director and spokesperson for the Yes on Proposition 1 campaign, said Proposition 1 sends a message to the rest of the country that our state stands up for reproductive freedom. “We stand up for health care,” she said. “We stand up for essential access to care that is life-saving.”
Sacramento resident Valeria Miranda supports Proposition 1 because she believes everyone should have the right to bodily autonomy. A study by Planned Parenthood found that 1 of 4 women receive an abortion by the age of 45. Sometimes pregnancy can happen at a time that is inconvenient and life-threatening.
“It’s important since we are witnessing the overturn of Roe v. Wade … I think we are seeing this reversal happen before our eyes, the extra sense of security is needed,” Miranda said.
Opponents of the proposition argue that it is irrelevant in California. They’re also concerned about the overwhelming volume of people traveling to California to recieve treatment for an abortion.
A study from UCLA Law estimates that more than 10,000 additional people will travel to California to undergo an abortion.
Catherine Hadro, a spokesperson for California’s No on Proposition 1 campaign, said the proposition is extreme, expensive and not necessary since California is a pro-abortion state. “Prop 1 is a classic political example of politicians throwing money at a problem that does not exist,” Hadro said.
Proposition 1 opponents often cite religious beliefs. Sacramento resident Violet, who identifies as a Jehovah’s Witness, said she follows the outlines of the Bible and believes that life is sacred at any stage during a mother’s pregnancy. Violet asked not to use her last name so she could avoid political conflict with her community.
“We believe life begins with conception,” Violet said. “Even though they are still in the mother’s womb, it’s still a person.”
Tak Allen, president of the International Faith Based Coalition, said she is concerned about the health risks of women undergoing an abortion. She experienced medical disadvantages during her labor with her fourth child.
“As a Black woman, we do not get the same care that anyone else gets in the medical system,” Allen said. “We are the least heard; we are thought to not feel pain.”
Sacramento State student Jennifer Pegov said she would vote no on Proposition 1 from a faith-based perspective but added that she understood medical circumstances can make abortion necessary.
“I understand if someone ends up losing their life to it and then they have a choice to abort the baby or lose their life … I understand,” Pegov said.
Though many religious Sacramento residents oppose the proposition, some people of faith support the measure, such as Marie Palacio. “Everybody has the right,” Palacio said. “I’m Catholic … I’m not very much into thinking it’s the right thing to do but I guess it depends on the circumstances. That’s what I think … if it’s rape or the mother’s going to be in danger, that’s their right.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This report was prepared by Sac State data-journalism students under the direction of Professor Phillip Reese.