One Year Since Dobbs (YWCA CEO Letter)

Dear YWCA Leader,

Tomorrow, June 24, marks one year since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, immediately triggering dozens of state abortion bans and restrictions, leading to further and continued bans throughout the country.

With the door opened wide for states to roll back access to abortion care, we have heard—and in many cases witnessed—the direct, dire impact of this decision on women’s lives. Countless stories detail the emotional, physical, and economic impact of taking away women’s—especially young women’s—ability to choose if and when to become a parent.

The deluge of attacks on the fundamental right to seek abortion care continues unabated. Just in the past several weeks, we have seen a fetal heartbeat ban proposed in South Carolina. We have seen the North Carolina legislature override the governor’s veto—which means most abortions are now banned in North Carolina after 12 weeks of pregnancy, instead of being legal up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. We’ve seen continued litigation to eliminate the availability of mifepristone—one of the medications that is used in medication abortions. A decision out of Texas will most certainly make its way to the Supreme Court, with repercussions across the country.

We need to say it out loud: Policies that block access to abortion are deadly, and even more so for women of color and low-income women.

As an organization committed to advancing gender and racial justice, we cannot hide from the very real impacts of these harmful policies—no matter where we live. Nor can we hide from the ripple effect that these attacks have had, and will continue to have, on the rights, safety, education, and opportunities of people of color, transgender people, women, and other marginalized communities. Legislative bans are being placed on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, and in some states, for transgender adults. We continue to see book bans that undermine the ability to teach an inclusive history and to create inclusive schools where every child can learn. Even attacks on no-fault divorce—a critical legal procedure that should be available to any woman, particularly those who need safety from their abusers.

There is deep and powerful connectivity between legislation advanced to restrict voting access, abortion rights, gender-affirming care, immigration, economic support, and other threats to the health, safety, and economic security of women, people of color, and marginalized groups.

At this moment of deep uncertainty in our communities, I invite each of you who are part of the YWCA movement to lend your voice, your leadership, and your community presence to the collective effort to ensure that every woman and person who can become pregnant has full autonomy to make decisions about their reproductive health and lives.

On Saturday, YWCA USA Board Chair Pia Wilson-Body, Board Vice-Chair Dr. Ann Branan Horak, and I will be in community with the CEOs, Executive Directors, board members, staff, and community partners from our North Carolina YWCAs as Vice President Kamala Harris addresses the nation about the Dobbs decision, access to abortion, and the future of reproductive justice. At the same time, organizations all across the country will be holding marches and rallies in solidarity and community with one another.

This is a moment to remember what has been taken from us, and to strengthen our resolve to defend these rights, protect our communities, and create a world in which all women, girls, and marginalized people can thrive. Whether you join virtually on social media (these sample posts can help) or in person at a community event in your area, I invite each of you to join with us in this moment of solidarity, community, and renewed commitment.

With gratitude,

Margaret Mitchell,