Since the Supreme Court ruling that repealed abortion rights, many now face greater risks and fear when it comes to reproductive healthcare.
To gain better insights on how this ruling will affect reproductive healthcare and what resources women and pregant people can access, Latinas in Business spoke with Erika Seth Davies, CEO of Rhia Ventures—a social impact organization advancing equitable sexual, reproductive, and maternal health outcomes for all.
Erika is a seasoned leader with more than 20 years of experience in development and fundraising, program design, collaboration and partnership management, and racial equity advocacy. In addition to her CEO position at Rhia Ventures, she is also the Founder of The Racial Equity Asset Lab (The REAL), a venture that centers racial equity in impact investing and works to shift capital to address the persistent racial wealth gap.
Previously, she served as Vice President of External Affairs at ABFE (Association of Black Foundation Executives) where she designed the SMART Investing Initiative, a field-wide effort to encourage foundations to incorporate a racial equity lens in endowment management practices through increased access for racially diverse- and women-owned investment management firms.
Her extensive experience in gender and racial equity advocacy led her to cross paths with Rhia Venture’s board chair, Ruth Shaber, during a webinar where Erika was a panelist addressing manager diversity, applying a racial equity lens to investment policy and practice, and an approach to alternate due diligence that would account for structural racial and gender inequity.
“At some point, while addressing foundations as investors, I talked about the unique and particular role they have under the philanthropic mission and said, ‘Foundations are investors that do a little grantmaking on the side.’ I think this was a moment during which Ruth thought I had a point of view that would be well-suited for Rhia and reached me through one of my fellow panelists for a conversation. At the end of our conversation, she asked if I would consider applying for the CEO role. The rest is history,” Erika recounts.
Rhia Venture’s mission is to transform the US market for sexual, reproductive, and maternal health which has been built on flawed systems that “perpetuate unjust outcomes for women of color, low-income women, and others directly affected by systemic inequities.”
They are creating meaningful impact by partnering and connecting with activists, public health professionals, scientists, entrepreneurs, corporates, and investors, to build a more just marketplace.
We asked Erika, in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling, what impacts will this decision have on reproductive healthcare?
“Of course, there are the near-term impacts of limited access to abortion care for women and pregnant people in states with bans,” says Erika, “However, this also means:
- Forced pregnancies put women’s lives at risk, particularly in states with abysmal maternal morbidity and mortality outcomes and even higher risks for Black women who already face the worst maternal health outcomes in this country.
- Limits on women’s economic mobility and independence as well as education and career advancement
- Pressures on health systems and abortion care in states where it remains accessible
- Legal issues as employers, providers, abortion funds, etc. attempt to untangle the web of intricate and inconsistent laws from state to state”
How can Rhia Ventures help people overcome these obstacles?
“Rhia’s work is focused on investing in early-stage innovations in reproductive health care and pushing companies to ensure reproductive healthcare for their employees, including abortion care. Our corporate engagement and shareholder advocacy provide the recommendations for corporate policy and healthcare coverage that will optimize reproductive and maternal health. We also leverage shareholder advocacy to organize investors to file shareholder proposals challenging companies on their support for politicians advancing these draconian laws.”
Rhia is enabling this change through four complementary efforts:
- They make direct investments in early- and growth-stage companies that are driving innovation, access, and equity in reproductive and maternal health, through their wholly owned venture fund, RH Capital Corporation.
- They provide technical assistance and shared resources to these companies and others so that they can strengthen their work in health equity and spur change across the venture ecosystem.
- They work through their Corporate Engagement and Blossom programs to change social norms, practices, and people that influence the healthcare market.
- They produce a systems-change assessment of the market, identifying the key leverage points for addressing systemic racism and other inequities to inform Rhia’s programs and share with grant-makers, investors, and policy-makers seeking to “make this market work for justice,” to paraphrase Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation.
Erika shares five actions before can take as next steps to combat the Supreme Court ruling against abortion.
- Providing financial support to the network of abortion funds around the country and volunteering with these organizations
- Checking with their employers to determine what are the HR policies and healthcare coverages offered with respect to reproductive and maternal health. See our reports for recommendations on best practices: Hidden Value: The Business Case for Reproductive Health and From Here to Maternity: The Business Case for Strong Maternal Healthcare Coverage in the Private Sector.
- Becoming an advocate in your organization or company for stronger policies and a public voice on this healthcare issue
- Calling your Senators to demand passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act to ensure federal protection of access to abortion care
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