Two different states, two abortion bans. The Indiana and South Carolina Supreme Courts have upheld draconian abortion bans. This further decimates abortion care access throughout the country. And new tax incentives are in place to prop up anti-abortion centers.
Here is the latest.
Last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld an anti-science six-week abortion ban. This so-called “fetal heartbeat” law bans abortions as soon as cardiac activity is detected. To be clear, such a definition is a misnomer and does not adhere to evidence-based medicine.
For example, Dr. Ted Anderson, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an organization that represents 58,000 physicians in the United States, explains that this labeling is incongruent with the “anatomical and clinical realities of that stage of pregnancy” because the so-called heartbeat is simply“electrically induced flickering of a portion of the fetal tissue.” In fact, an actual heart is not detectable until at least 17 to 20 weeks of gestation.
In the more northern part of the country, the Indiana Supreme Court has upheld a total abortion ban except in very rare circumstances. Although Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union valiantly fought for a rehearing, the court refused and the ban has gone into effect.
With these new bans in place, there are 15 states in the same region of the country that either have full abortion bans or severe restrictions. To be clear, these bans are not based on science, but rather on religious ideology. And such bans only compound existing inequities in maternal health care.
For example, a new report from the Milken Institute has found that Alabama, which has a full abortion ban, has the highest rates of maternal mortality among Southern states. Maternity mortality crises especially discriminate against Black women due to systemic racism — regardless of their socioeconomic status. Banning abortion further erodes access to comprehensive, and life-saving, reproductive health care.
Maternal deaths and abortion bans are not just a regional issue. Every state, regardless of its geographic location, has seen a tragic increase in maternal deaths. A new study found that maternal mortality rates more than doubled in the United States between 1999 and 2019; states in the Midwest and Great Plains experienced some of the highest increases. Furthermore, Native populations had the largest increases in maternal deaths. This is further evidence that racist health care inequities are endemic throughout the country and should be treated as a public health crisis.
However, instead of enacting legislation that is supportive of comprehensive health care, anti-choice legislators are pouring millions of dollars into religiously affiliated crisis pregnancy centers. These centers provide disinformation about abortion care, including so-called “abortion reversal” treatments that are not supported by science or medical organizations.
Additionally, tax-credit programs incentivize people to donate to anti-abortion centers by significantly reducing the total amount of state taxes one owes. For example, in Louisiana, donating to an anti-abortion center provides a whopping 50 percent tax credit, whereas donations to other charities earn a measly 4.25 percent tax credit. In Missouri, donations to a Christian-affiliated pregnancy center lands an incredible 70 percent tax credit.
As we continue to see abortion bans sweep the country, we can expect to see more of these coercive measures to prioritize religious-based centers instead of legitimate health care providers. As secular activists, we must not only be cognizant of harmful legislation but also aware of the different ways in which policy is weaponized against women and pregnant people across the country.