Surprise! Abortion Restrictions Are Bad for Women

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Anti-choice legislators introduce TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) and other restrictions on women’s access to abortion, saying they’re simply trying to protect women’s health and lives. Pro-choicers raise the red flag, pointing out that the safest bet for women is to be in control of their own bodies and choices. Anti-choicers fire back, insisting (wrongly) that abortion is an unregulated and unsafe procedure that endangers women.

For instance, Gary Rogers, president of the now-defunct Colorado Pro-Life Alliance, told The Baltimore Sun in 2001,

The real issue is that abortion, because it has been political, has been hands-off in terms of regulation. Our primary goal is to protect women and their health, and protect them from being victimized by the profit-driven abortion industry.

Well, I’m sorry to take the wind from your sails, folks, but a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health proves once and for all that abortion restrictions are bad for women. In “Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women’s and Children’s Health and Well-Being Against Abortion Restrictions in the States,” researchers write that states with the highest number of anti-abortion laws have the poorest health outcomes for women and children.

According to a press release on the report,

Oklahoma [for example] has the maximum number of abortion restrictions (14 in total) and has some of the country’s worst outcomes for women’s health—including higher maternal mortality rates, higher uninsured rates and lower rates of cancer screening, among other outcomes—and some of the worst outcomes for children’s health—including higher infant and child mortality rates, lower rates of preventive care and higher rates of teen alcohol and drug abuse.

Plus, researchers found that states that had passed many policies to restrict access to abortion, such as requiring clinics to meet ambulatory surgical center building standards or requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions, had also passed the fewest evidence-based policies proven to advance women’s and children’s health. (Those policies include expanded family/medical leave, reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers and mandatory sex ed.) On the other hand, California, which has only three restrictions on abortion, has passed 16 of the 22 supportive policies researchers analyzed. All but one of the six states with five or fewer supportive policies had 11 or more abortion restrictions on the books.

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, says,

Women do not need any more laws that pretend to protect their health and safety while putting both in jeopardy. They need the real thing. It’s time these politicians check their priorities, and finally be held accountable to the women and children of their states.

Some politicians are trying to change the tide: In 2013, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would prohibit the passage of laws designed to limit access to abortion, preserve current laws that expand women’s access to care and create legal tools to repeal laws that restrict abortion. The bill is currently under consideration by the Senate.

Well, anti-choicers, what do you have to say now?

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Sylvia McFadden licensed under Creative Commons 2.0




Stephanie hails from Toronto, Canada. She is a Ms. writer, a master of journalism candidate and a hip hop dancer/instructor/choreographer. She got her start in feminist journalism at the age of 16 when she was a member of the first editorial collective at Shameless magazine—and she has never looked back.