Statement of NASW Virginia on the Overturning of Roe vs. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court
June 24, 2022
The NASW Virginia Chapter is appalled and furious at the June 24 ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that effectively overturns Roe v. Wade and its 50-year precedent confirming a constitution right to privacy in the 14th Amendment, including reproductive choice.
NASW and our chapter will continue not only to support reproductive freedom and privacy protection, but also do everything we can to keep abortion and birth control legal and accessible in our state. In addition, we will be the frontline guarding against any efforts to criminalize aspects of social work or social workers themselves.
A basic right has now been removed from more than half of the country’s population—an “unconscionable rollback,” says NASW. But every person in the country will be affected, from the people who must now bear the complexities and risks of birthing an unwanted child, to the men and families who will be legally obligated to financially support such a child until age 18.
Sex is a basic human desire and need, and the potential outcome—pregnancy—should not be a lifelong sentence to a drastically changed future unless that lifestyle is one by choice. We will not live in an equal and just society when only 48% of Americans—those who identify as men—retain full autonomy over their own health and futures.
According to the Guttmacher Institute’s most recent statistics, 17,210 abortions were provided in Virginia in 2017. Virginia already has significant restrictions on abortion, including required parental notification for pregnant minors and a ban on abortion healthcare coverage for public employees unless in a life-threatening situation or in conditions of rape, incest, or severe deformation of the fetus.
In addition, 93% of counties have none of the state’s 16 abortion clinics, and 80% of Virginia women reside in those locales. Regardless, anti-choice lawmakers have already stated they will be pushing for more barriers, including a return to mandatory ultrasounds (repealed in 2020) and 24-hour waiting periods (expensive and medically unnecessary).
Forced pregnancy is a tactic used by the most autocratic societies to suppress and control a population deemed unworthy of the most basic freedom to make decisions about their own bodies, their own lives.
And make no mistake—this decision does indeed force pregnancy on those people who do not have the health, financial means, or work or family flexibility to travel to another state for abortion care. We have just witnessed the launching of a whole new level of health inequity—the can and the cannots in terms of reproductive healthcare, pregnancy outcomes, and long-term child care.
According to NASW. “[Abortion] bans like Mississippi’s are part of intertwined systems of oppression that deny many vulnerable people access to their rights. Besides people of color, the impact of this decision will also fall heavily on people with disabilities, people who live in rural areas, young people, undocumented people, and people who are low income. With this decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has once again failed the most disadvantaged Americans.”
As social workers, we see firsthand the trauma and mental and physical harm of rape, incest, sexual violence, and unplanned pregnancies, as well as the joy of a child by choice. People should not be punished for a breakdown in birth control, a tragic health crisis that threatens their lives, or a heinous crime committed against them. Indeed, pregnant people should not have to give any reason at all to receive an abortion.
Abortion is healthcare—and it will not stop in this country, despite state bans. It will only become unsafe. It will only become a privilege. It will only lead to unnecessary deaths or injuries of people forced to experience the risks and responsibilities of a full-term pregnancy. For now, the ever-changing political whims of lawmakers and judges—not the Constitution as previously interpreted--will dictate the most private aspects of our lives.
The Fight Re-Ignites
NASW Virginia is not giving up. We are making clear to our anti-choice governor and his followers that their responsibility is to provide for the safety and well-being of all Virginians. They cannot say that mental health and children’s safety in foster care are “priorities” and then try to remove individual choice regarding our physical wellness and our ability to determine if we can or want to care for a child.
We will not let them get away with dead-of-night ploys such as their recent effort to insert a late, unvetted provision in the state budget that would have denied healthcare coverage to poor women who receive the devastating news that their babies are malformed.
Social workers will again be at the advocacy forefront, offering evidence-based healthcare guidance, protecting our professional interests, and advancing social justice issues such as voting security and rights, health equity, mental health, and anti-discrimination initiatives. We hope you will join us—do NOT give up!