May 12, 2022

All hands should be on deck in the fight for safe abortion access

Written by: Melissa Orozco, Founder + CEO, Yulu PR

I recently returned home to New Mexico with my partner to celebrate the coming arrival of our first child together. Our time there was magical – I marvelled at how much love this baby is already surrounded by. How supported I am. Unfortunately, those aren’t the circumstances for a lot of Americans who find themselves pregnant. 

While we were being showered with love by friends and family, others were reeling from the news that the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade seemed imminent. Just yesterday, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified the right to abortion, failed to make it to open debate in the Senate in a 49-51 vote. Regardless of what is or isn’t possible in the Senate right now, it’s crucial we all do whatever we can to defend access to safe abortions. For many, they are life-saving medical care.

Growing up in America without health insurance meant that I relied on Planned Parenthood for a lot of my healthcare needs, including contraception. Girls where I’m from were sexually active young. And though I’m fortunate I never had to decide whether or not to abort an unwanted pregnancy, several of my closest friends did. Their reasons are really nobody’s business, but two of four wanted to wait until they were in a better position to have a family. And when the time was right for them, they did. 

We know it isn’t middle-class and affluent women who will be harmed most by this decision. Statistically, it’s going to be women of color and women from lower incomes. New Mexico is the fifth-poorest state in the country, so many of my friends, relatives, and peers fall into one of those categories. Overturning Roe will harm those who can’t travel to access abortion and those who know another child will push their family to the breaking point. In desperation, many will be forced to try unsafe abortion methods. Some will die. 

The right to access safe abortion is not enshrined in law here in Canada, either, and access varies by province and whether or not you live in an urban center. But I feel an incredible sense of relief that I’m having my baby here, because I know that my health as the mother will continue to be prioritized throughout my pregnancy. I know that the healthcare system will continue to care for us and provide resources after the baby is born to help us both thrive. I also acknowledge that Indigenous women often have a very different experience of Canada’s healthcare system, and that unearned privilege plays a big part in mine. 

Every bit of influence counts 

Brands are gradually beginning to speak up about just how devastating the loss of Roe will be. That trickle needs to become a rush. Fellow B Corp Levi Strauss has pledged to pay travel expenses for employees who need to travel to obtain abortions. OKCupid, Bumble and Virgin have all issued statements condemning the potential overturning of Roe as an unconscionable blow to reproductive freedom. Large corporations, like Citigroup, are framing it as a health benefits issue rather than a moral issue. Even if a company is reluctant to make a strong statement about whether they are pro-choice or pro-birth, its leaders should know that restricting abortion access will result in economic implications alongside the health implications for employees, as women are forced to take leaves to travel out of state or out of the country to obtain abortions. 

If you have any kind of influence whatsoever, now would be the time to use it. I would implore all communicators who are advising their clients on this issue to make sure they’re equipped with the right information. Many are under the impression that the country is evenly divided on the issue of abortion and are advising clients not to weigh in. That is absolutely not the case. The majority of Americans believe that abortion should be accessible, though they differ on whether that access should have certain restrictions.

As a veteran PR pro and a social impact strategist, I can tell you that staying silent sends a much louder message than saying something. Women working in white-collar roles may not have to worry about being able to access safe abortion right now, but many of them came from the same circumstances I did. Not having an abortion might have completely changed the trajectory of their lives. Being forced to have a baby as a teenager would certainly have changed the trajectory of mine.

When I welcome my baby to the world in a couple months, I’ll be doing so as a financially secure 38-year old woman, with a network of support and love around me. Every part of my pregnancy has been a joyful experience. Every woman should have the right to plan her family, just as I did. 

Whether or not overturning Roe is a foregone conclusion, the fight for reproductive justice requires all hands on deck. My hope is that progressive lawmakers and those on the fence will come together and codify safe abortion access into law. In the meantime, let’s all use the power and influence we have to do what’s right. Communicators, citizens, lawmakers, celebrities, brands: don’t sit idly by while pregnant Americans are sacrificed in some ideological chess game. Now is the time to stand up for reproductive freedom, in any capacity you can.