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Abortion bans lead to maternal mortality

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dignity and compassion


Time and time again, we are told by anti-abortion proponents that banning abortion and supporting anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers is “pro-life.” But the facts show otherwise.

We are seeing this play out in real time in Texas where a group of women and doctors have sued  for clearer medical exceptions in the Lone Star State. The group argued that abortion bans put their health at risk and their lives in danger. Travis County District Judge Jessica Mangrum ruled in favor of the group, providing a temporary injunction on the abortion bans.

Hours later, however, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court, effectively blocking the judge’s orders. In a press release, Paxton wrote: “Texas pro-life laws are in full effect. … This judge’s ruling is not.”

I can’t help but think about the dozen-plus women in the Texas lawsuit and how devastating this process must be for them — and the countless others who the lawsuit undoubtedly represents. One plaintiff, Amanda, was told by doctors that her pregnancy was not viable but that they could not legally perform an abortion. Three days later, Amanda developed a life-threatening infection and went into septic shock.

Amanda described the horrifying experience in court: “My teeth were chattering uncontrollably, I couldn’t put together a sentence. … Imagine when you have the worst flu you’ve ever had in your entire life, it was that times one thousand; it was awful.” As a result of being forced to continue her pregnancy, she developed scarring and may be unable to conceive in the future.

This is hardly “pro-life.”

And. sadly, these travesties will continue until abortion bans are lifted. How do we know this? Because research has already shown that bans on abortion care do not further “life” but rather death.

A report from Gender Equity Policy Institute found that women in states with abortion bans are three times more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth or soon after giving birth than women in states where abortion care is legal. Additionally, babies born in states with abortion bans are 30 percent more likely to die in their first month of life.

These disparities run especially deep for marginalized communities. For instance, Black women are three times more likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth or right after giving birth than white women. Furthermore, Black babies are two times more likely to die in their first month of life than white babies.

We see this in the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s home state of Wisconsin., where abortion has been banned since the U.S. Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade. However, long before Roe was overturned, Wisconsin has been considered a hostile abortion state with limited access and no subsidized care for low-income people. Wisconsin has the highest Black infant mortality rate in the country, and Black women die at twice the rate of white women in the state.

In fact, maternal mortality nearly doubled between 2018 and 2021 across the country. The numbers in a post-Roe America are undoubtedly higher but may be difficult to track. A new article by ProPublica explains that each state has its own data collection strategy, leading to inconsistencies. Plus, some records may not address abortion access as a factor for maternal mortality. And Idaho has actually disbanded its maternal mortality review committee. These omissions and discrepancies create a checkered overview of the true impact of reversing Roe.

But researchers have looked at past data to make determinations of what happens without abortion access. For instance, researchers from the University of Colorado-Boulder used 2020 data to estimate that banning abortion across the entire country would increase maternal mortality by 24 percent.

For people who identify as “pro-life,” abortion bans are a win. Such a viewpoint reflects a narrow scope of pregnancy, childbirth and life itself. Pregnancy and childbirth carry risk. After all, women are 14 times more likely to die during childbirth than they are from an abortion.

Beyond that, though, pregnancy and childbirth are extremely complex processes that require comprehensive access to all reproductive health services. Without abortion, providers are unable to have honest conversations and discuss all options with pregnant people. In fact, many physicians in states like Texas, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida have fled to other states because of the detrimental impact of abortion bans on patient care.

With the further erosion of abortion, maternal deaths are expected to rise, although the real number may never be known due to lack of consistent statistics across the country. However, research already shows us what we secular voters know to be true: We need abortion access in all states and districts — now.

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