Remembering Roe, Protecting Mothers

25 Jan, 23

Dear Friends,

This past Sunday was the 50th anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which established a constitutional right to abortion. Instead of building on the progress that Roe made possible in the fight for freedom and equality, we are confronting the terrible harms caused by a reactionary Supreme Court majority striking it down last year. Following the Supreme Court’s devastating decision, abortion was criminalized and banned in Texas—denying millions of people their autonomy and endangering lives in a state that already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.

Forcing pregnancy and birth is dehumanizing and dangerous. This is especially true in Texas where state leaders have slashed funding for reproductive health; blocked urgently needed Medicaid expansion; and failed to address systemic health disparities for years. It’s unconscionable.

While Texas leaders rushed to ban abortion last year, they delayed the release of critical data showing that there was a 25 percent increase in severe medical complications from pregnancy and birth between 2018 and 2020, and that 90 percent of maternal deaths could have been prevented. This heartbreaking data underscores the reckless cruelty of the extremist assault on Texas families.

We can’t separate abortion bans and the fight for reproductive freedom from maternal health. Full and equitable access to reproductive health care is essential to people being able to make their own family planning decisions based on what’s best for their own health, family, and future.

That’s why Commissioners Court passed a resolution recognizing January 23 as Maternal Health Awareness Day to draw attention to the crisis of maternal morbidity in Texas and Harris County and demonstrate the county’s commitment to improving maternal health.

In Harris County, we’re working to protect at-risk mothers and babies. We’re piloting a Maternal and Child Health Program to provide direct support to Black mothers and infants who, compared to any other group, are at highest risk of health complications and death in Harris County. This communitywide investment in maternal health includes expanding health care access; addressing systemic racism within medical care; and increasing access to contraception, mental health care, and other vital resources.

This is all part of our broader commitment to invest in healthy families, increase equitable access to health care, and do what we can to fight back against the extremism that is endangering people’s lives and their freedom.


Rodney Ellis