Restricting Abortion Access is Deadly

As the Supreme Court prepares to reverse Roe v. Wade and end federal abortion rights in the United States, we explore the question: what impact will this have on people’s health?

You’d think with developments in modern medicine that pregnancy would be getting safer rather than more dangerous – you’d be wrong.

Source: National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality via
  • Racism plays a major part in mortality for pregnant women. In a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report from 2020, they found in New York City that 40% of Black pregnant women reported three or more stressors, compared to 12% of white women, 26% of Latina women, and 18% of Asian or Pacific Islander women. Racism was explicitly identified as a major stressor, and those who experienced it showed increased risk of preterm or low weight births.
  • This rate is much higher in the United States compared to most other wealthy countries. For comparison, the rate of maternal mortality in 2018 was three per 100,000 or fewer in the Netherlands, Norway, and New Zealand (see table).
Notes: The maternal mortality ratio is defined by the World Health Organization as the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.
Data: OECD Health Data 2020, showing data for 2018 except 2017 for Switzerland and the UK; 2016 for New Zealand; 2012 for France.
Source: Roosa Tikkanen et al., Maternal Mortality and Maternity Care in the United States Compared to 10 Other Developed Countries (Commonwealth Fund, Nov. 2020).

And with the restriction of abortion access, the situation gets even more dire.

  • Restricting abortion access comes with a reduction in access to family planning, contraception, and other health services for people who become pregnant.
  • When safe abortion options aren’t available, people resort to riskier, potentially life-threatening alternatives.
  • Many people who are forced to bring unwanted pregnancies to term can experience serious mental health breakdowns as a result.
  • When abortion access is restricted, people with medical conditions that make giving birth unsafe, have no way to terminate their potentially fatal pregnancies.
  • Because of all this, access to abortion has been shown to increase pregnancy-related mortality* AND infant mortality.**

In other words, it’s deadlier to have a baby in the U.S. than it is in any other wealthy country in the world, and restricting abortion access will only add to the death toll.