DC Statehood is a Reproductive Justice Issue
Did you know that in a 2016 referendum, 86% of D.C. residents voted in favor of statehood? Dr. Serina Floyd, OB/GYN and Medical Director/Vice President of Medical Services at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. and Kory Stuer, Public Affairs Manager at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C, sit down to talk with us about the importance of statehood for Washington, D.C., and what it would mean for the reproductive health, rights, and justice of D.C. residents.
Washington, D.C., is a district of more than 700,000 tax-paying residents, all of whom do not have basic democratic rights-- including voting representation in Congress. D.C. residents also do not have control over how tax dollars are spent at the local-level, meaning members of Congress can block or overturn any D.C.-based bills. D.C’s lack of statehood has a direct impact on the public health of its residents.
The district has high levels of inequity in health outcomes, with those who are most marginalized also experiencing the highest rates of health inequalities. For example, D.C.’s maternal mortality rate for Black residents is so high that it the district has the 5th worst overall rate in the country, 50% higher than the national average. The D.C. Council has introduced the Maternal Health Resources and Access Act, which, if passed, will respond to this crisis, and improve access through multiple mechanisms.
The recent release of the President’s budget repealed the Hyde amendment and the D.C. abortion ban (this ban refers to a separate appropriations rider that prevents the District from using their own tax dollars for funding abortion care). In 2017, young people between the ages of 13 and 24 accounted for 41% of HIV diagnoses in D.C.; double the national average. Yet, members of Congress have routinely voted for bills that prevent young people from accessing sexual and reproductive health care without their parent’s consent and stymied needle exchange programs. Lack of D.C. statehood has no doubt impact the district when it comes to COVID-19. Black residents have made up 50% of COVID cases and 70% of deaths yet have only received 37% of vaccinations.
There is current legislation that has a historic level of support led by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton in the House and Senator Tom Carper in the Senate. The bill, the Washington, D.C. Admission Act, creates a new state out of the specifically residential areas. You can learn more about it here.
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