Anti-Abortion Laws Justify Mass Incarceration

Texas legislators want to be able to execute women for getting an abortion. While that’s the most extreme piece of anti-abortion and anti-woman legislation being considered this week, it’s not the only one.

Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Missouri, Florida–these are just some of the states that have been considering or have passed extremely harsh anti-abortion policies, ones that criminalize the procedure and threaten to throw women in jail–or the Huntsville Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections.

Overwhelmingly, these are states with higher percentages of women of color.

Image result for black population by state

Above, a county-by-county map of the US’s black population as a percent of the local population.

The abortion rate among black women in the US is more than double that of white women.

And black women have emerged as powerful voters. In the 2018 midterm elections, they set a record for primary voting participation.

And look where they vote:

Map 1

Those brighter blue dots in the map above are areas where b lack women are a greater share of the voting population.

And they are in states where new laws against abortion would jail women for getting an abortion.

And if women are convicted of the crime of getting an abortion, they can lose their voting rights.

And that means fewer black women voting.

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We already live in a nation where 6.1 million people have been disenfranchised because of criminal records. This disproportionately affects African Americans, especially men. 1 out of 13 African Americans–7.7% of possible black voters–has lost the right to vote, versus 1 out of 56 non-black Americans. Mass incarceration was an effort to remove black voters from their role as citizens. And it has worked, depriving them of the one important way to shape the nation’s politics. We don’t know what American law or politics today might look like if we didn’t have such a huge number of people of color unable to vote. And in states like Florida, state legislators are terrified of finding out, which is why they fight efforts to restore voting rights to people with convictions on their records.

The US has a long history of using the law to define the behaviors of black people as illegal, which allows the state to lock them up, disrupt their families and communities, and deprive them of the right to vote. Now, state legislatures are adding abortion criminalization to the list of ways they can keep power in the hands of white people.

Rebecca

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