The American Anthropological Association, on behalf of its 8,000 members and 38 sections, wishes to bring to bear the weight of a century of scholarship on health and well-being to a critical issue of our time, the right to reproductive healthcare in the United States.
The Supreme Court’s June 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson emphasized the importance of “history and tradition” in the 9th Amendment’s protection of unenumerated rights, yet in reality, it relies on neither. The decision to return the power to make reproductive healthcare choices to state legislatures, rather than the individuals whose reproductive health, autonomy, and privacy are at stake, flies in the face of widespread cultural understandings and popular opinion.
Anthropological scholarship shows how the ruling allows states to take actions that will worsen maternal health, result in many preventable deaths, undermine women’s autonomy and opportunities for equal participation in society, render families more precarious, constrain healthcare providers from doing their jobs and providing ethical care, and heightens serious and longstanding health inequities that harm poor women and women of color.
A carefully researched statement by our Society for Medical Anthropology and endorsed by a growing number of our Association’s sections specifically addresses the devastating effects of this ruling, and provides a roadmap for anthropologists to work with as we tackle this important issue going forward.