As we prepare for this summer’s wildfire season in King County and throughout the state, it’s essential to track disproportionate impacts on People of Color, folks living in poverty, young children and older adults, and people with underlying health conditions, like asthma and cardiovascular disease. These impacts are well-documented, but a new report shows that pregnant people are also at risk when air is unhealthy to breathe, and the toll can be even greater when other factors, like poverty, converge with expecting a baby.
At midnight on the first day of September, after the Supreme Court failed to respond to an appeal from abortion providers, a law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy went into effect in Texas. SB 8 has ended access to an estimated 85% of procedures, empowered ordinary people to sue fellow citizens for seeking out or facilitating abortion care, and pushed patients to seek care across state lines, some as far as the Pacific Northwest. Less than a month after SB 8’s implementation, Planned Parenthood disclosed to the Emerald that its Central District Health Center had seen its first patient from Texas.
This disruption in care, and rise in anti-abortion vigilanteism, has already been challenged by the Justice Department and drawn widespread criticism. Reproductive health care providers question its use of the term “fetal heartbeat,” a descriptor that’s more emotional than clinical (the sound heard on ultrasounds is caused by electrical activity; heart valves aren’t actually present). Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered a blistering, Ruth Bader Ginsburg-esque dissent calling the law “clearly unconstitutional.” The law has even been condemned by private companies like Lyft, which established a defense fund to cover legal fees for drivers sued under the law. In the words of one Slate headline: “The Supreme Court Overturned Roe v. Wade in the Most Cowardly Manner Imaginable.”
But none of these objections lessen the impact the law has already had. SB 8 has had “a chilling effect” on abortion providers in Texas, said Lisa Humes-Schulz, vice president of policy and regulatory affairs at Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. “No one wants to get sued,” she added, and the fallout has been swift.
Pregnant women in Washington state who contracted COVID-19 were 13 times more likely to die from the virus than their peers who were not pregnant, according to a study published last week in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. One study author called the mortality rate “shockingly high.” The study was led by University of Washington researchers.