Maternal and infant mortality rates higher in states with anti-abortion laws, report finds

A new study by health policy researchers adds to a growing body of evidence linking anti-abortion laws and restrictions to higher rates of maternal and child mortality.

A Commonwealth Fund analysis found that maternal and child death rates are significantly higher in states that have banned or restricted access to abortion compared to states that have preserved access to abortion.

The report relied on the most recent data — from 2020 and before — for death rates and other poor health outcomes in each state, predating current state-level policies for the access to abortion following the US Supreme Court’s decision in June to revoke a Constitutional right to abortion care.

The court decision that overturned Roe vs. Wade sparked a wave of anti-abortion laws in several states; more than a dozen states effectively banned abortion as a result of the ruling.

States with restricted access to abortion had maternal mortality rates in 2020 62% higher than states that preserved access to care, the report said. Between 2018 and 2020, maternal mortality rates increased twice as fast in states that have implementeddeer restrictions on abortion, according to the report.

According to the report, overall death rates among women and girls aged 15 to 44 were 34% higher in states where abortion was banned than in other states.

The Commonwealth study suggests that the Supreme Court ruling and subsequent state-level anti-abortion measures may have exacerbated these disparities.

The country’s maternal mortality rate, defined by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the number of deaths from any cause related to pregnancy or its management, or within 42 days of termination of a pregnancy, has easily exceeded rates in other industrialized countries. .

According to the CDC, 80% of these deaths are preventable.

The Commonwealth report also found that fetal or infant death rates in the first week of birth occurred at 15% higher rates on average in states with restrictions than in states with protections for infants. abortion care.

The findings suggest that “making abortion illegal makes pregnancy and childbirth more dangerous” and “threatens the health and lives of all women of childbearing age.”

The Commonwealth report also found that many US counties with stricter anti-abortion policies are also considered “maternity care deserts”.

Last year, a similar study by a group of researchers at Tulane University found that states with more abortion restrictions correlated with higher maternal mortality rates between 2015 and 2018. University of Colorado study estimated that a nationwide federal ban on abortion care could increase the nation’s maternal mortality rate by 24%.

“Compared to their counterparts in other states, women of childbearing age and people giving birth in states with current or proposed abortion bans have more limited access to affordable health insurance coverage, poorer health outcomes and poorer access to maternity care providers,” the Commonwealth researchers wrote. .

“Making abortion illegal risks worsening these disparities, as states with already limited Medicaid maternity coverage and fewer maternity care resources lose providers who are reluctant to practice in states they perceive to restrict their practice. “, according to the report. “The result is deepening fractures in the maternal health system and worsening inequalities by race, ethnicity and geography.”

The Supreme Court’s decision in the case Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is “devastating” for maternal health care, according to President Joe Biden’s domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice.

The decision “underscores that we must continue to fight relentlessly to protect and advance women’s maternal health,” she said Dec. 13 at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Earlier this year, the administration released a White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, which aims to expand health care coverage, support low-income patients during and after a pregnancy and to address the biases in health care that prevent patients from seeking care. they need.

The plan also called on states to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to one year; the government health program for low-income Americans accounts for about 44% of payments for childbirth-related services in states with restricted access to abortion, according to the Commonwealth report.

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