Print Page   |   Contact Us   |   Sign In
News & Press: Members in the News

Editorial: Social Workers must take action to protect abortion access and reproductive rights

Thursday, August 9, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Valerie Arendt
Share |

The Personal is Political: Why Social Workers Must Take Action to Protect Abortion Access and Reproductive Rights

by Linda Chamiec-Case, MSW/MPH Candidate, NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina intern, NASW-NC Member


The United States has a long history of criminalizing and restricting access to abortion. This was happening before Roe v Wade established the constitutional right to abortion in 1973, and has continued since. As social workers, our NASW Code of Ethics compels us to engage in social and political action to advocate for changes in policy and legislation that undermine reproductive rights. One such piece of legislation is the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which prohibits Medicaid and other federal health programs from covering abortion services.1 This ban disproportionately targets low-income individuals and People of Color2 and, therefore, violates our professional value of “social justice”, which calls us to “pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals.”


Social workers also need to advocate against the criminalization of all people, including those who choose to self manage their abortion out of preference and/or necessity.3 Our ethical standard of self-determination is clear that people should be able to decide for themselves what is best for them, including whether and how to end their pregnancy.


Unfortunately, this history is far from over, making our engagement in social and political action as important as it’s ever been. On July 9th, Donald Trump made good—for the second time—on his promise to nominate a US Supreme Court Justice who would be committed to gutting and overturning Roe v Wade when he nominated Brett Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh has argued that religious employers do not have to provide contraceptive coverage to employees and he recently ruled against an adolescent immigrant’s right to access abortion while incarcerated in a detention center. Both of these actions violate our ethical standard of self-determination and our professional value of “dignity and worth of the person,” because they restrict a person’s ability to make the best decision for themselves about their body, family, and life. In the past year, we have already seen the immense power the Supreme Court has to dismantle reproductive rights with just one of Trump’s nominees—Neil Gorsuch—on the bench.


On June 26th, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in NIFLA v Becerra that “crisis pregnancy centers” can continue to deceive and coerce pregnant people with medically inaccurate information, clearly violating our professional value of social justice that calls us to “ensure access to needed information, services, and resources.” Additionally, despite appearing as medical facilities and receiving $1.55 million in this year’s North Carolina General Assembly budget, most “crisis pregnancy centers” do not actually have medical licenses or medically licensed staff4 and, therefore, can’t legally be held to HIPAA privacy previsions. This means they are under no obligation to protect people’s sensitive health information, which violates our ethical standard of privacy and confidentiality.


Reproductive rights have been and continue to be under attack. As social workers, it is our professional imperative and out duty to advocate for change. Now is the time to call our senators, engage with local organizing groups, and come together to fight for reproductive health, rights, and justice in NC!




1. Henshaw, S. K., Joyce, T. J., Dennis, A., Finer, L. B., & Blanchard, K. (2009). Restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortions: A literature review.

2. Arons, J., & Agenor, M. (2010). Separate and unequal: The Hyde Amendment and women of color. Center for American Progress.

3. Diaz-Tello, F., Mikesell, M., & Adams, J.E. (2017). Roe's unfinished promise: Decriminalizing abortion once and for all.

4. Bryant, A. G., & Swartz, J. J. (2018). Why crisis pregnancy centers are legal but unethical. AMA Journal of Ethics20(3), 267.



NASW opposes nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to be next U.S. Supreme Court Justice


NASW applauds U.S. Supreme Court for striking down stringent Texas abortion clinic laws


NASW-NC accepts articles, opinions and editorials for publication in the NASW-NC EnewSWire, NASW-NC Social Worker News Letter. Please email Seth Maid at

Association Management Software Powered by YourMembership  ::  Legal