The reproductive justice framework focuses on the genuine opportunities of women to access reproductive healthcare services. Although this approach necessarily includes organizing against legal restrictions to healthcare access, the chief novelty of reproductive justice is its additional focus on non-legal barriers. Racism, misogyny, homophobia, and any other number of social problems prevent women from utilizing reproductive healthcare services even when no official legal barriers exist.
Economic injustice figures prominently in the category of non-legal causes of reproductive healthcare restrictions. The information collected by the 2010 Census gives us significant insight into the scope of present-day economic inequality. According to the Census, over 14.5 percent of women — more than 17 million women — live below the poverty line. Of those below the poverty line, 43.4 percent — more than 7.5 million women — subsist on incomes that are less than half of the poverty line. These percentages grow for certain women of color, with Hispanic and Black women both experiencing poverty rates at or above 25 percent.
Economic injustice also manifests itself in the male-female wage gap. Despite legislative efforts to curb the practice, employers continue to pay women significantly less than their male counterparts. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women make only 77 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts. This aspect of inequality also amplifies when we take race into consideration. Black women and Hispanic women make 62.3 cents and 54 cents respectively for every dollar made by their white male counterpart.
By themselves, poverty and the wage gap create significant barriers for women trying to obtain reproductive healthcare services. These barriers are made even stronger by the fact that women’s healthcare needs cost more than men’s healthcare needs, especially in the realm of reproduction. Paying women less money than men — so little in millions of cases that they must live in poverty — while also charging them more for healthcare access is an obvious problem. But it gets even worse: nearly 1 in 5 women have no health insurance at all.
Even if organizers manage to keep access to reproductive healthcare legal in Oklahoma, it will not be genuinely accessible for large numbers women until we also eradicate the economic injustice that continues to plague women. High rates of poverty, the wage gap, higher healthcare costs, and the lack of health insurance — all of which affect certain women of color at vastly disproportionate levels — will guarantee the inaccessibility of reproductive healthcare in any legal climate.