Louisiana attorney general withholding flood funds over abortion ban is anti-Black climate terrorism

Louisiana attorney general withholding flood funds over abortion ban is anti-Black climate terrorism

As hurricane season creeps up on Atlantic coastal communities, New Orleans is flooding once again. Jezebel reported on Thursday that Louisiana’s Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry has once again pushed the Louisiana Bond Commission to “delay a $39 million future line of credit for the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board,” the first time being in July. According to Jezebel, the city issued a flood warning on Thursday, and a special weather statement due to excessive heat is still in effect at the time of this writing. This funding is necessary for critical flood mitigation and response, and is being withheld until the city—a Democratic stronghold and economic center in Louisiana—agrees to comply with the state’s abortion ban.

When I visited New Orleans last year, my tour guide made it clear that many parts of New Orleans have still not fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, let alone from Hurricane Ida last August. The majority-Black Lower Ninth Ward was battered in both storms and has had a disproportionately treacherous experience with recovery, especially as many Black residents who were bused out of storm-torn neighborhoods have not returned. Images of abandoned citizens were seared into the public consciousness, enduring and heartbreaking symbols of systemic neglect, environmental racism, and the long-term impacts of segregation.

Neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward were historically built on cheaper, low-lying land, while wealthy white settlers lived on high ground. In the early 1900s, zoning ordinances outright banned Black Louisianans from living in white neighborhoods. A century later, Katrina-era policy restricted rentals of what little housing was left to blood relatives. The fact that many Black New Orleans residents have not returned home has accelerated gentrification and the decimation of public schools. Racism has always played a role in New Orleans’ ability to protect its population in the face of natural (or man-made) disasters, and the state’s use of environmental funding to rebuke the city over abortion will continue to put Black residents in harm’s way.

NOLA’s refusal to investigate or prosecute those seeking abortions is being used as yet another mechanism to make residents even more vulnerable to environmental threats. According to the Louisiana Illuminator, the $39 million dollars of credit was slated to build an updated power plant that would “power the city’s drinking water, drainage, and sewage system.” As climate change makes hurricane season increasingly violent, hazard mitigation is more urgent than ever.

Explaining his decision, Landry said in a public meeting, “This is not just about abortion. This is about the fact that there are elected officials not only in this state, but around this country, that seem to thumb their nose at the laws of the country and the states.” As if pregnant people—specifically women of color, who receive 72% of abortions in Louisiana—were not already in danger, those in New Orleans are also threatened by climate disaster.

Louisiana’s abortion ban is increasingly extreme: As Vice reported, it includes “no exception for rape or incest, only to save the life of the mother, but abortion providers can be jailed for up to 10 years and fined up to $100,000.” Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill that intensified the existing trigger law in June. Daily Kos’ Aysha Qamar reported Friday that a Louisiana woman carrying a fetus with a fatal disease preventing the formation of its skill was denied an abortion.  

Climate emergency in America is not raceless or genderless, as is evident in Louisiana today. The overturning of Roe v. Wade is as much an assault on pregnant people as it is to all people living in progressive cities in anti-abortion states whose potentially life-saving protections can be held hostage by their states. The Louisiana attorney general’s decision also begs the question: when pregnant people are forced to have children, what will they do when their homes are decimated by the next catastrophic storm? Again, we are reminded that the war on abortion is not a fight for children’s lives, dignity, or safety, but rather a guarantee that many more will live in poverty and neglect by their governments.

To support the people of New Orleans, donate to the New Orleans Abortion Fund and Rebuilding Together. 

This story was produced through the Daily Kos Emerging Fellows (DKEF) Program. Read more about DKEF (and meet the author, and other Emerging Fellows) here.

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