The unthinkable has happened. The United States Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, denouncing 50 years of precedent, stripping away a women’s fundamental right to choose and granting the legal status of abortion to the states.
As a hospital nurse who has been caring for patients for over 40 years, it’s my job to help and support patients during some of their most challenging moments, when they have to make critical decisions about their health. I never imagined we would live in a country where women would not be guaranteed the right to make their own personal healthcare decisions and could be forced to give birth to a child against their will, depending on the state they reside in.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 25 states are likely to ban abortion now that Roe has been overturned, while the Guttmacher Institute says 26 states are likely to substantially limit abortion access. This is an unconscionable affront to personal freedom and takes away a significant portion of the U.S. population’s right to make choices about their own sexual and reproductive health.
There are so many reasons why this is outrageous, but perhaps one of the most critical is who this will impact the most. Poor women, women of color and young women will bear the brunt of this decision, which was determined by a court that is mostly male, almost entirely white and has a median age of 62 and a guaranteed six-figure salary for life.
The wealthy and well-connected will have no problem securing care in other states where abortion is legal, but women without resources will have to choose between a forced pregnancy or securing finances to travel out of state. Many of these women will still choose the second option. This decision will not end abortions. It will just make them less safe and put women in dangerous situations with no way out.
Listen to the people
As a nurse, it’s my job to keep people safe, to listen to my patients and provide a single standard of high-level care, regardless of who they are or what they believe in. As a leader at my union, SEIU 1991, and the chair of the SEIU National Nurses Alliance, which represents over 80,000 nurses nationwide, it is my job to listen to my colleagues so I can represent their needs at the bargaining table. It is our elected officials’ job to listen to the people they are representing — whether or not they voted for them or donated to their campaigns. It’s supposed to be about the people we serve — our neighbors, friends, family and fellow Americans.
But this decision was made with blatant disregard for the will of Americans. The majority of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. In Florida, over 66% of Floridians believe that abortion should be legal in most cases — a higher percentage of people than those who voted for a ballot initiative to increase the minimum wage to $15.
The people have spoken — so why aren’t our public servants listening? Gov. Ron DeSantis believes we should have a choice whether to wear a mask or to get vaccinated, but not whether to birth a child after 15 weeks of gestation. It is clear that many of our elected leaders have lost sight of their duty to serve the people they represent.
This November, we need the majority to speak out — and we speak through our vote.
As a healthcare provider, I know that abortion care is healthcare. And I won’t stop fighting until every person — no matter where they live, how much they make or what they look like — has the freedom to make their own decisions about their lives, futures and health. If you’re angry, please join me in holding our leaders accountable.
Elections matter. Votes matter. Let your vote be your voice this November.
Martha Baker, RN, is president of SEIU Florida’s State Council and executive director of SEIU Local 1991, representing over 5,000 registered nurses, attending physicians and healthcare professionals at Jackson Health System. Baker serves as chair of the national SEIU Nurses Alliance.