The Laws Hurting Women Of Color The Most Fall Into Three Devastating Camps
It's no secret that women of color face greater obstacles to equal pay, health care, and voting. Multiple laws that are currently on the books only work to exacerbate those additional barriers. Laws that hurt women of color specifically have found their way into these varied aspects of everyday life (often at the hands of male, conservative lawmakers) and continue to penalize women at the intersections of both race and gender. Though the laws are numerous and varied, three specific types of laws — on pay equity, abortion, and voter access — continue to be some of the worst offenders.
Regulations on wages, abortion access, and voter identification often hurt women, but are especially notorious for their unfair treatment toward women of color. You can essentially take any statistic on the damage these regulations do to women, and compound that number when that woman is any race other than white. This often leaves statistics muddled — when surveys only list women by their gender and not their race, for instance, they fail to address how these systems disproportionately affect women of color.
But these women are the unfortunate recipients of the worst aspects of these laws, and their impact deserves to be acknowledged. Here's a look at how these laws particularly affect women of color.
1. Abortion Restrictions
According to a report from Rewire, low-income women of color suffer the most from restricting abortion access. They are less likely to be able to seek out abortion providers and health care clinics, resulting in a continued cycle of poverty.
The recent cut to abortion providers in Texas most negatively impacted Hispanic women, data from the Texas State Department of Health Services showed. The number of abortions Hispanic women received dropped 18 percent between 2013 and 2014 alone.
Thankfully, however, this also means women of color are most likely to benefit from the Supreme Court ruling on the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case, which struck down many of the restrictions Texas had enacted.
The nationwide fight for abortion access still continues, however. One of the worst laws up for debate was signed by none other than Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Trump's running mate. The law seeks to ban abortion when a fetus has a disability or genetic anomaly, and would mandate the burial and cremation of miscarried or aborted remains. Likewise, it would require doctors who preform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital. This in particular would affect women of color, as this would drastically increase the distance between available abortion clinics. The law was blocked by a federal judge in June, but Pence and anti-abortion activists are considering an appeal.
Along with several other states, Missouri's abortion law is also one of the worst. In addition to requiring admitting privileges for doctors, the state also mandates that women receive counseling after seeking an abortion. After the counseling, they must wait an additional 72 hours before having the procedure.
2. Voter Identification Laws
One voter ID law in North Carolina that requires people have a state-issued identification card that matches their voter registration card has been shown to negatively impact women of color the greatest. According to a report from Talk Poverty, women of color are consistently affected by this law. Many are not able to spare the time and cost necessary to get the required identification.
In North Carolina, for example, black women made up less than 24 percent of the voting block in 2012, but accounted for more than 34 percent of registered women voters who didn't have the necessary identification to vote.
Likewise, Texas has had one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in place. The law required a specific set of identification cards at the voting booth, and was so restrictive that the U.S. Justice Department ruled that it specifically targeted minority voters. While the federal ruling lessened these restrictions, NPR reports that Texas officials have done little to get the word out about the updated voting rules. This could lead to additional issues with voting, particularly for the women of color who had been previously impacted by the former restrictions.
3. Pay Equity
The gender wage gap has been kept alive through discriminatory hiring practices and massive discrepancies in salaries between men and women. Though The Equal Pay Act of 1963 attempted to abolish the wage gap based on sex, it hasn't done enough to wipe out this inequity (a 2015 World Economic Forum report found that it will be an estimated 177 years before women achieve equal pay at the rate we're going).
This gap only gets worse if you're a woman of color. For instance, the National Committee on Pay Equity found that in 2013, white women earned 78 percent of white men's median annual income, while Hispanic women received only 54 percent, a full 10 percentage points lower than black women. The "78 cents on the dollar" statistic often quoted regarding the gender wage gap only accounts for white women.
Raising the minimum wage would be one way to significantly combat this problem for women of color. Federal law set the minimum wage at a meager $7.25 per hour, despite studies showing how it would greatly benefit women of color. Unfortunately, many politicians — including Republican nominee Donald Trump — are against raising the minimum wage.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which would add procedural protections for women in the workplace, is another measure that would help close the wage gap. Again, many GOP officials have voted against the act, with Republican lawmakers killing it in the last three congressional sessions.
This, unfortunately, is just a small sampling of the laws and systems that continue to hurt women of color the most. And while some regulations have improved over time, we have to continue to push legislation both at the local and federal level in order to see real, lasting change for these women.
Image: Liz Minch/Bustle