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.
- Since 1987, the ratio of people dying from pregnancy-related deaths has increased from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births, to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020.
- For Black people, the instances of pregnancy-related death are even higher, with 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births, in comparison to the 19.1 deaths per every 100,000 for white people (see table).
- 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).
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.