Numerous state policies have been shown to improve women’s and children’s health. Restricting abortion is not one of them.
The notorious Texas law known as HB2 has closed more than half of the health clinics that provide abortion care in that state. Jodie Laubenberg, the state representative who authored the bill, celebrated its passage in 2013 by saying she was “proud of the step we’ve taken to protect both babies and women.”
Texas has one of the highest numbers of abortion restrictions in the U.S. Given the sentiments of politicians like Laubenberg, you might expect women’s health to be extremely well-protected in that state.
But when it comes to indicators of the well-being of women and children, Texas has some of the most abysmal scores in the nation.
In Louisiana last year, Senator David Vitter called for an unwarranted investigation of abortion clinics “to protect the health and safety of children.” Meanwhile, his state has one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the country. Despite this, legislators in 2014 advanced a medically unnecessary admitting privileges requirement claiming that it was “about the safety of women.”
Abortion is already a very safe procedure: less than a quarter of one percent of abortions result in a major complication. It’s safer than many other common procedures such as wisdom tooth removal and tonsillectomy.
Nevertheless, anti-choice state legislators proclaim their commitment to women’s and children’s health loudly and often. But that concern fails to translate into real improvements in the lives of families, according to a new report.
Evaluating Priorities markedly shows that states with the most abortion restrictions have the poorest health outcomes for women and children.
The study calculated the number of abortion restrictions in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and ranked them from the least restrictive to the most restrictive state. This ranking was assessed against an array of indicators of women’s and children’s health and well-being in those same states.
The report’s authors found a “consistently negative relationship” between the number of abortion restrictions in a state and the indicators of women’s and children’s health.
States with the most numerous abortion restrictions have also failed to enact policies that genuinely promote the health and well-being of women and children. Such proactive measures include improving the quality of prenatal care, access to cervical cancer screenings, asthma treatment for women and children, and dental care for children, as well as decreasing domestic violence.
“The report makes it clear that enacting abortion restrictions is not genuinely about protecting women’s health, it’s just about politics,” says the Center’s director of state advocacy, Kelly Baden. “There are a number of evidence-based policies that have been shown to improve women’s and children’s health and lives, but restricting abortion is not one of them.”
Instead of imposing restrictions that only intensify the hardship and risk that women face, leaders need to craft policies that respect women’s decision making, improve access to health care, and foster families’ financial health.
To this end, the Center has compiled a guide to pro-women policies that are being proposed and enacted around the country. Released this month, Moving in a New Direction: A Proactive State Policy Resource for Promoting Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice was created in an unprecedented partnership with more than 60 national and state organizations.