The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Inadequate Reproductive Healthcare for Working Class Women

Oct 24, 2022

Soon after Roe v. Wade was overturned, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an executive order which prevented city agencies from assisting investigations against people seeking abortions from other states. She said, “I am taking yet another step to help to safeguard all those who come to our city for reproductive healthcare.” While this ensures a legal protection, no one should be fooled that Chicago is about to provide adequate healthcare for working class women. Like everywhere else, income and class determine the level of care that someone receives.

A lack of regular medical care means that death from cervical cancer is much more likely for women living in low income neighborhoods. One study compared death rates in two adjacent Chicago neighborhoods. It concluded that a woman living in Washington Park, a working class and majority black neighborhood, is 85 times more likely to die of cervical cancer than a woman living in the wealthy neighborhood of Hyde Park.

And unlike other types of cancer, it can be almost entirely preventable because it is not hereditary. This requires getting a series of vaccines that greatly lower the chances of getting HPV, which is the virus that can cause cervical cancer. Regular screenings and Pap smears are also necessary in order to catch it early. No woman should die from something that could be prevented this easily.

Breast cancer also requires early detection in order to increase the chances of survival. This means getting regular mammograms. If diagnosed, the treatments involve countless appointments, which means regularly going to hospitals, which takes up a lot of time. Chemotherapy and radiation take a huge toll on the body and can make everyday tasks very difficult. Yet, many women can’t afford to stay home and not work throughout treatment.

Death during pregnancy and childbirth is another reproductive health issue that overwhelmingly affects working class women. A study done by the Chicago Department of Public Health revealed that “women covered by Medicaid were nearly three times more likely to experience a pregnancy-associated death than women with private insurance.” Regular check-ups and prenatal care are necessary to ensure a healthy pregnancy and safe delivery. Chronic conditions such as obesity, hypertension, and diabetes increase the risk of complications.

Many of these issues can be managed with regular medical care. But this requires consistent health insurance and access to doctors. The distribution of hospitals throughout the city is more dense in high income neighborhoods. This means that even working class women living in Chicago often have to travel far to go to these hospitals where the level of care tends to be better. These hardships hit the Black and Latino populations of Chicago even harder.

While some places like Chicago are calling themselves sanctuaries for women’s reproductive health, it is clear that’s not true. Women with money can access the care that they need, while working class women receive much less care that is much worse. And even though legal protections to get an abortion exist in Illinois right now, it does not mean that every woman has equal access.