Women who live in states with abortion bans or restrictions are significantly more likely to die during pregnancy or after giving birth than women in states with abortion access, according to a new analysis.
In 2020, the maternal death rate was 62% higher in the 26 states that have banned or seriously restricted abortion access than in the 24 states with abortion access, according to the report released by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit that seeks to promote more equitable health care access.
“Making abortion illegal makes pregnancy and childbirth more dangerous and threatens the health and lives of all women of reproductive age,” report coauthor Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, a senior vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, said in a press release.
In the months since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, several states have banned and dramatically restricted abortion. Abortion is currently banned in at least 13 states, and another 13 significantly restrict access to abortions. According to the report, it’s not just maternal health outcomes that are worse in these 26 states.
States that ban or restrict abortions also have worse health outcomes for women who are not pregnant or giving birth, according to the report. Between 2018 and 2020, death rates for women of reproductive age were 34% higher in states with more abortion restrictions. Women of reproductive age in these states tend to have less access to health insurance and health care, and are more likely to begin a pregnancy less healthy than women in states with abortion access, the report found.
In addition to the health risks faced by women, children are also more likely to have adverse health outcomes in states with restrictive abortion policies. In 2019, infant mortality within the first 27 days of life was 30% higher in states that ban or restrict abortion. In the first week of life, infants were 15% percent more likely to die in states with restricted abortion access.
States with restrictive abortion policies also tend to have fewer maternal healthcare providers, according to the report. States with more abortion restrictions have a 32% lower ratio of obstetricians to births and a 59% lower ratio of midwives to births than states where abortions are accessible. According to the report, all of these factors increase risks for people who may become pregnant.
“Compared with their counterparts in other states, women of reproductive age and birthing people in states with current or proposed abortion bans have more limited access to affordable health insurance coverage, worse health outcomes, and lower access to maternity care providers,” the report concluded.
“Making abortion illegal risks widening these disparities, as states with already limited Medicaid maternity coverage and fewer maternity care resources lose providers who are reluctant to practice in states that they perceive as restricting their practice. The result is a deepening of fractures in the maternal health system and a compounding of inequities by race, ethnicity, and geography.”