The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, effectively ending federal protections for abortion access, according to a media statement by The National Health Care for the Homeless Council.
The Council is very concerned about the impact of this decision, especially given that unintended pregnancies disproportionately impact very low-income women, to include those experiencing homelessness.
According to the Council, impacts have very real consequences for health and well-being. Those experiencing homelessness have more difficulty accessing contraception that would prevent pregnancy. Continuing with an unintended pregnancy while experiencing homelessness adds significant trauma and stress to a situation already in crisis. The lack of paid parental leave, affordable childcare, and a social safety net makes it more difficult to retain employment, thereby placing significant economic burden on those most vulnerable. Violent attacks on people who are homeless are shockingly common, and unwanted pregnancies resulting from sexual assault are especially traumatic.
Further, there is a constant fear of engaging with the child welfare system and the subsequent loss of child custody due to homelessness status. Finally, the overwhelming loss of self-determination inherent in homelessness is only compounded by having to continue an unintended pregnancy. All these factors make it harder for people to engage in care and regain housing stability.
In order to reduce the negative impact of today’s decision on the health and well-being of people experiencing homelessness, we urge the HCH Community to decrease unintended pregnancies among those we serve and to re-dedicate itself to ensuring equitable access to preventive health care services to all patients.
Actions for the HCH Community to take:
- Ensure all providers are trained in trauma-informed care and offer comprehensive reproductive health services that put safety and harm reduction at the forefront.
- Continue to lower barriers to accessing all types of healthcare, to include open access/same-day availability for family planning services to increase opportunities for engagement.
- Proactively initiate (and regularly revisit) family planning conversations with ALL patients (regardless of gender).
- Integrate reproductive health and family planning into other services, such as HIV/Hepatitis clinics, substance use clinics, shelters, etc.
While the Supreme Court decision will disproportionately harm the most vulnerable people, the HCH Community has a clear role to help improve the environment of care by providing high-quality, comprehensive health care services free of stigma and judgment to all patients. We believe healthcare is a human right, and we will continue working to ensure all people have equitable access to comprehensive care.