The states with the highest number of anti-abortion laws also have some of the poorest health outcomes for their female residents, according to a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health. The report authors say their results thoroughly debunk conservatives lawmakers’ claims that their support for abortion restrictions is based in a desire to protect women.
“This report exposes the flimsy claims of politicians who have been shutting down women’s health care providers under the patently false pretext of protecting women’s health,” Nancy Northup, the president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement accompanying the report.
As an increasing number of state officials have relied on this framing to justify passing abortion restrictions — the right-wing group Americans United For Life, which creates draft legislation to facilitate the spread of these state-level laws, has a whole section on “women’s protection” — researchers wanted to examine whether that translates into improved health in those states. In consultation with policy experts, they examined indicators related to abortion restrictions, women’s health outcomes, children’s health outcomes, social determinants of health, and policies supportive of health and well-being.
When they plotted out their results, they found that there’s actually an inverse relationship between abortion restrictions and health outcomes, writing that “the more abortion restrictions present, the worse a state performed overall on indicators of women’s and children’s well-being”:
The states with the best health indicators were New Hampshire, Iowa, Vermont, New Jersey, and Connecticut, none of which have more than six abortion restrictions on the books. Meanwhile, the states that ranked at the bottom — including Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas — all have at least 11 restrictions.
According to the researchers, there was also a strong inverse relationship between abortion restrictions and other state-level policies that have been proven to enhance health outcomes, like accepting Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, implementing screening for domestic violence, and providing workplace protections for pregnant employees. The states that have passed multiple laws to limit abortion have passed fewer of those evidence-based policies to improve women’s and children’s well-being.
The researchers ultimately conclude that their analysis provides a counter to “the common claim that anti-choice policymakers in the U.S. are working to protect and support the health and well-being of women, their pregnancies, and their children.” Their findings echo previous evidence that some of the best policies to ensure healthy pregnancies and prevent abortions, like expanding access to affordable birth control services, aren’t in place in the GOP-led states that focus their attention on anti-choice measures.
And there’s another way that these abortion restrictions don’t actually deliver: In addition to failing to protect women’s health, they also don’t actually lower the abortion rate in a meaningful way.