NEW ORLEANS (CN) – States with the most restrictions on abortion also have the fewest policies to protect women’s and children’s overall health, according to a study released Tuesday by the Center for Reproductive Rights and another nonprofit.
Twenty-six states that have more than 10 abortion restrictions scored more poorly for women and children overall than the 24 other states, according to the report from Ibis Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas – three of the states with the most restrictions – have dramatically fewer policies that address the challenges facing women and families, the report said.
Texas has some of the highest restrictions on access to abortion in the nation and also some of the worst health outcomes for women and children. It scores worse than the nation’s benchmarks on maternal, infant and teen mortality rates, according to the report.
“In states where it is harder for women to make choices about their pregnancy and to have a safe abortion, we also see that there are fewer policies in place that could support women throughout their life course, including during pregnancy. When those policies are not in place, women’s and children’s health and wellbeing suffer the consequences”, Terri-Ann Thompson, Ph.D., associate at Ibis Reproductive Health said in a statement.
“These results matter, because in states with relatively poor women’s health, the addition of multiple abortion restrictions — which have been shown to negatively impact women and their families — places women at further disadvantage for good health.”
The report, originally published in 2014 and updated this year, challenges the claims of politicians who say they support abortion restrictions by claiming they protect women’s health and safety.
The worst offenders, according to the report – states that have passed 10 or more abortion restrictions included in the analysis – have passed nearly 400 new abortion restrictions since 2010. In the past three weeks alone, the Texas Legislature has introduced almost 20 new anti-abortion restrictions.
The report examined state-level policies and broad health, social and economic indicators and outcomes related to the well-being of women and children against state-level restrictions on abortion. It concluded that the more abortion restrictions in place, the fewer policies which are known to promote health and well-being in women and children.
States were scored on a scale of 0 to 24, based on the number of possible supportive policies. These included such things as expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act; expanded family and medical leave beyond the Family Medical Leave Act; mandated sex education, contraceptive parity laws and a maternal mortality review board.
In general, the more abortion restrictions a state had, the fewer supportive policies are in place.
In Louisiana, for instance, 13 laws restrict a woman’s access to abortion, while the state offers just 11 of the possible 24 policies that support women and children’s health.
Restrictions include imposing a 72-hour wait between seeing a physician and having the procedure, and a law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
Attorneys for Louisiana argued before a federal judge in June that the state is allowed to “express a profound respect for life,” and that this profound respect compels the state to restrict abortion.
Attorneys for the Center for Reproductive Rights argued at that hearing that restricting access to abortion and imposing waiting times will neither improve a woman’s health nor the outcome of her pregnancy.
Supporters of restrictive abortion laws say they improve women’s health. Opponents say the laws impose undue burdens on abortion clinics and are designed to shame the women they serve.
Ibis and the Center for Reproductive Rights found no correlation between abortion restrictions and improved health. In fact, their report points to the contrary.
“What women, children and their families need their elected officials to focus on is increasing access to affordable healthcare, including Medicaid, so women can have prenatal care, cervical cancer screenings, and fewer preterm births,” Center for Reproductive Rights CEO Nancy Northrup said Tuesday. “They should invest in healthy kids who have good nutrition and physical education. This report clearly lays out that politicians pushing extreme anti-choice laws at the expense of public health have their priorities exactly backwards.”
The Center for Reproductive Health added in a statement: “Today’s report comes as the politicians in the Senate continually attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act – a move which threatens to leave millions without coverage, strip protections for guaranteed coverage of critical women’s health services, and undermine Medicaid.”
Attorneys representing Louisiana against the center’s challenges to its abortion restrictions did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.