Health Reproductive Rights

Study Finds Abortion Restrictions Adversely Impact Women’s Health Outcomes

States with the greatest restrictions on abortion are the worst for women’s overall health, according to a new study from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health.

via Ann Hakrness
via Ann Hakrness

More than 250 bills restricting abortion were introduced in 40 states in 2014 alone, and in the period between 2011 and 2013, states signed 205 new abortion restriction provisions into law – “more laws than were enacted in the entire previous decade,” the report states. Based on the study, the groups found a “consistently negative relationship between a state’s number of abortion restrictions and its performance on indicators of women’s health, children’s health, and social determinants of health.” The groups say lawmakers’ insistence that anti-abortion legislation is intended to protect women’s health is fundamentally flawed rhetoric.

“With few exceptions, states that have passed multiple policies to restrict abortion have passed fewer evidence-based policies to support women’s and children’s well-being, compared to states with fewer restrictions on abortion,” the study read. “The negative relationship between the number of abortion restrictions and the number of policies that support women’s and children’s well-being was stronger than any of the other sub-topics.”

The study report distinguished 14 different kinds of abortion restrictions and TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) Laws. After evaluating all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the groups compared each state’s performance on 76 different health indicators against the prevalence of anti-abortion legislation. Those indicators fell into five different categories, including women’s health outcomes, exclusively, including the occurrence of maternal death; children’s health outcomes exclusively; social determinants of health, which addressed socioeconomic or environmental outcomes proven to impact health; and pro-women and children’s health policy.

The median number of abortion restrictions was 10. Only Vermont placed no restrictions on abortion. Kansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma had all 14 restrictions identified by the groups. Another eight states – Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina – had 13 abortion-related restrictions.  According to the report, of the 23 states with 6 or less restrictive abortion laws in place, 78 percent performed above the median score for overall well-being. Of the 28 states with 7-14 abortion restrictions in place, only eight states were above the median score for women and children’s overall well-being. The best states for women’s health were New Hampshire, Iowa, North Dakota and Vermont.

TRAP Laws frequently come under fire from advocates and health care providers, and often their passage results in ongoing court challenges. In Texas, health care providers in the state have asked the US Supreme Court to block the enforcement of HB 2, an omnibus abortion bill. US District Court Judge Lee Yeakel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the law’s TRAP provision in August, but reinstated it last week, closing all but eight clinics in the state overnight. In Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe ordered a periodic review of the state’s TRAP rules out of concern for women’s health; the state’s Health Commissioner ultimately recommended amending the rules after her review and blasted them as “arbitrary” and “marked by political interference.” In September, a court challenge to Louisiana’s TRAP law kept three of the state’s five clinics from closing; in August, a federal court found Alabama’s TRAP law unconstitutional; in July, a panel of the Fifth Circuit kept Mississippi’s last clinic standing. Despite these rulings, lawmakers have continued to fight for TRAP laws that close clinics by imposing extraneous requirements on reproductive health care facilities and providers that are unnecessary and challenging to meet, and often they have cited “improving women’s health” as their primary motivation. This study proves them wrong.

Last summer, a poll found that a majority of Americans supported abortion rights and access and opposed state attempts to regular what they see overwhelmingly as a national, and not local, issue. In 2015, the Center for Reproductive Rights will partner with state advocates to develop data-supported policy that answers the wave of misguided reproductive health laws.

Media Resources: Center For Reproductive Rights, 9/2014; RH Reality Check 10/3/14; Medical Daily 10/3/14; Feminist Newswire 7/25/13, 5/13/14, 7/30/14, 8/5/14, 8/14/14, 8/29/14, 9/2/14, 10/2/14, 10/3/14, 10/7/14; Ms. Magazine Blog 10/2/14

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