By Alissa Jean Schafer, Energy and Policy Institute
More than 90 organizations nationwide, including Women’s March, will march in defense of reproductive justice on Oct. 2. The march and related activities will demonstrate that the intersection of climate change and reproductive health is very real.
More than 30 Women’s March events are planned in Florida alone, where Republicans have already filed extreme abortion restriction legislation similar to Texas. Florida is also home to sea-level rise, red tide, blue-green algae, heatwaves and hurricanes.
In the days since the Texas legislation passed, activists have reminded us that attacks on reproductive freedom are attacks on women’s health.
Meanwhile, our country has endured floods, fires, and record temperatures. We need to realize that the issues of reproductive health and climate change are interconnected.
Attacks on reproductive freedom hurt our progress on climate in many ways. Data show that climate change already disproportionately affects women, particularly women of color and women in frontline communities. Frontline communities are areas that tend to get hit with the first and worst aspects of climate change.
Examples include susceptibility to extreme heat, flooding, contamination of water and soil resources by corporate polluters, and numerous health impacts ranging from asthma to cancer, as well as increases in birth defects, miscarriages, and infertility.
The Center for American Progress published an article outlining much of this data last year titled: “Integrating a Reproductive Justice Framework in Climate Research.”
The New York Times published additional research last year titled “How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering” explaining how redlining of neighborhoods has created heat traps – the hottest spots in town. These areas are also susceptible to flooding. Climate change makes these heat traps worse and larger.
As we have seen this summer, climate change also makes natural disasters worse, potentially leaving thousands without access to water or electricity, let alone reproductive healthcare. The worse the disaster, the larger the impact, and the longer recovery takes.
Women racing against an arbitrary and discriminatory clock to secure legal abortion care in regions devastated by a climate-fueled storm or power outage will now be at increased risk.
According to the Center for American Progress, research done after Hurricane Ike found that women also experienced reduced access to birth control services, especially non-Hispanic Black women and evacuees.
Women are leading the climate movement — from national non-profit leaders, to elected officials, to climate scientists, to neighborhood organizers who double as first responders when climate disasters strike.
The climate movement includes me, a bi, single mom, here in South Florida. I work on climate and also serve as a local elected official.
It is more crucial than ever that we address the warming climate. We need to reduce our energy use and transition to clean energy. President Biden’s Build Back Better plan is a critical step in the right direction on many of those issues.
Meanwhile, we must fight for reproductive freedom. These two issues do not exist in vacuums. The future of our planet depends on how we prioritize climate justice, reproductive justice included.
Alissa Jean Schafer is a communications and research specialist for the Energy and Policy Institute, a national watchdog organization, Managing Owner and Director of Copper Stamp Strategy LLC, and a Broward Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor, Seat 4.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.