By Damali Campbell Oparaj
Black History Month is the perfect time for us to renew our pledge to provide accessible health care for all. As a Black, female physician who has dealt with discrimination at most every turn in my life, I truly understand the battle that women of color face in looking to receive quality, affordable, and accessible reproductive healthcare. And the best way to support access to reproductive care right now in New Jersey is to support the Reproductive Freedom Act (S3030/A4848).
Planned Parenthood is here to serve patients of all races, religions, gender identities and citizenship statuses with excellent care, respect and compassion. Addressing underlying causes of inequalities is a top priority for Planned Parenthood’s board members and healthcare staff, as we know health equity is not achieved without addressing racial equity.
Due to centuries of systemic racism and classism, it is often those who need care the most who lack access to it — and unfortunately, that means Black and Latinx communities, communities with low income, and immigrant communities. As reproductive justice activist La’Tasha D. Mayes pointed out in Time, Black women live disproportionately in states hostile to abortion rights, are less likely to have health insurance, more likely to be denied coverage for abortion, and often struggle to afford the birth control that best meets their needs.
As you can see, even when legal rights exist, barriers to abortion care remain that are financial and logistic. Lack of coverage, funds, and accessible providers keeps reproductive care out of reach for too many. But Planned Parenthood is committed to expanding access and providing necessary care regardless of financial need. As our reproductive justice partners teach us, the ability to decide when and whether to have a child is an essential component of reproductive freedom.
Please join us in the fight to make healthcare accessible and the fight for reproductive justice for all by supporting the Reproductive Freedom Act, a bill introduced in both houses of the state Legislature. The legislation would protect and expand access to time-sensitive pregnancy-related care, including prenatal services, birth control, and abortion, in three main ways:
By confirming the rights guaranteed in Roe v. Wade in state statute;
By fully funding state programs for pregnant people and requiring insurers to cover safe, legal abortion care and birth control, removing financial barriers that hurt New Jerseyans’ health and
By eliminating outdated and medically unnecessary regulations that only block access to care.
Desmond Tutu notes, “When you are silent in the face of oppression you, are choosing the side of the oppressor.” I promise that Planned Parenthood and our many supporters will not remain silent.
Damali Campbell Oparaji MD, FACOG, FASAM is a community member, physician, and Board Member at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey.