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Pro-choice and anti-choice protesters demonstrate outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in California.

Pro-choice and anti-choice protesters demonstrate outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in California. (Photo: Steve Rhodes/Flickr/cc)

Anti-Choice States Are Worse for Women and Children, Says Study

States that don't prioritize reproductive rights, don't prioritize healthcare for women and children in general

Julia Conley

A new study challenges the conservative idea that abortion restrictions are put in place by legislators who simply want to protect women's health and safety.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health find (pdf) that states with the most restrictions to abortion access tend to have laws that put other healthcare services out of women's reach as well—and to have worse health outcomes for women and children.

"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," said Terri-Ann Thompson of Ibis Reproductive Health.

The study ranked states based on how many policies they had in place to support women and children's health and wellness needs, compared with each state's restrictive abortion laws. Louisiana and Texas were found to be two of the most restrictive states, with 13 and 11 restrictive abortion laws, respectively. Both states had few laws aimed at providing women and children with healthcare, health education, and economic support, and had higher-than-average rates of maternal and infant mortality.

Abortion restrictions studied by the groups included mandatory counseling before an abortion, restrictions on abortion coverage in private and public health insurance plans, and restrictions placed on health clinics that provide abortions, mandating that such clinics must be equipped as ambulatory surgical centers.

"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."—Terri-Ann Thompson, Ibis Reproductive Health

The latter restriction was the subject of a 2016 Supreme Court case, Whole Women's Health v. Hellerstedt, which pro-choice advocates say exemplified the recent "pro-women's health" posturing of the anti-choice movement. In it, the Supreme Court struck down a restriction placed on an abortion clinic in Texas stating that the clinic had to be equipped with a large operating room and wide hallways, and that doctors in the clinic had to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. The Court deemed the restrictions to be medically unnecessary.

But Tuesday's report notes that while the 2016 decision "was cause for celebration, the recent election has signaled a changing landscape for abortion access...Our opponents are abandoning their guise of caring about women's health and shifting their policy strategy to privilege an embryo or fetus above a woman."

The study says that while lawmakers in Texas, Indiana, and Louisiana have recently worked to pass a number of laws requiring embryonic and fetal tissue to be buried or cremated, "they all rank among the lowest in children's health and well-being outcomes."


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