Washington, D.C. November 1, 2022 – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) released a new report: Post-Roe Abortion Bans Threaten Women’s Lives: Health Care Providers Speak Out on the Devastating Harm Posed by Abortion Bans and Restrictions. The 23-page report – based on information provided by leading health care providers – reveals the devastating consequences of state abortion bans and restrictions enacted by right-wing legislatures and the impacts of Senate Republicans’ extreme proposal to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks. The report details the effects of these radical laws on women’s access to health care as described by health care organizations representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and hospitals.
“In the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, this report reveals that the abortion bans and extreme restrictions imposed by Republican politicians have devastating health consequences and threaten women’s lives,” said Senator Warren. “According to leading health care organizations representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and hospitals, the health consequences of criminalizing abortion are catastrophic for women – and the Republicans’ proposed national abortion ban would only exacerbate this crisis.”
“This report lays bare the very real, barbaric consequences of Republicans’ state-by-state efforts to control women and strip them of their basic rights to decide what happens to their own bodies,” said Senator Duckworth. “Let’s be perfectly clear: bans on abortion don’t actually stop abortion from happening. It just means women will seek out more dangerous, less safe paths to get the care they need when they need it. No one should have to cross state lines to be treated as an equal citizen – and that’s why Democrats will never let up our work to enshrine full reproductive rights into law.”
“This report details the devastating consequences of state-level abortion bans and the potential impact of the GOP’s push to outlaw abortion nationwide,” said Senator Hirono. “The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision has sowed chaos and confusion even in states like Hawaii where abortion remains legal, endangering the health and safety of millions and disproportionately impacting communities of color. As MAGA Republicans work to advance a national abortion ban, we’ll continue fighting to defend reproductive freedom and codify abortion access nationwide.”
“This report confirms exactly what I feared: Republicans’ crusade against women’s reproductive freedoms has created national chaos that is a mortal threat to women’s health,” said Senator Smith. “I am determined to push back against these dangerous Republican efforts, and I will not stop organizing and fighting until women’s freedoms can be exercised equally in all parts of this country.”
The report is a culmination of a monthslong investigation that Senator Warren has been leading into the effects of abortion bans and restrictions on women’s access to health care in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. In August 2022 and September 2022, Senator Warren wrote to five leading health care organizations: the American Medical Association (AMA), Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH), National Nurses United (NNU), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA), seeking answers about how radical state abortion bans and Senate Republicans’ proposal to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks would impact women’s access to pregnancy care, reproductive care, and even non-reproductive health care.
The key findings of the report include:
State-imposed restrictions on abortion care affect all women seeking reproductive health care, even in states where abortion remains legal.
- AMA wrote that “State-imposed restrictions on abortion care have certainly resulted in diminished access to pregnancy care, reproductive care, and other health care, as well as delays in such care.”
- NNU wrote that “In states where abortion is legal and protected, nurses are beginning to see increased patient loads because of patients traveling to these states to receive the reproductive health care they need. This will put additional strain on nurses who are already chronically understaffed at hospitals across the country.”
State abortion bans have created mortal threats to women suffering from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications.
- The United States is already in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis, with the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy countries, and with more than 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths already being preventable. Abortion bans will make this crisis even worse, resulting in preventable pregnant women’s deaths.
- PRH wrote that “Efforts to ban abortion entirely will continue to exacerbate this country’s maternal health crises. Data shows that efforts to ban abortion would lead to a 24 percent increase in maternal mortality overall.”
State-Imposed Restrictions on Abortion Care Threaten Health Care Providers and Interfere with the Doctor-Patient Relationship.
- All five organizations described how conflicting, vague, and restrictive state laws place providers in impossible situations of trying to meet their ethical duties to put patient health and well-being first while attempting to comply with complex state laws that interfere in the practice of medicine and jeopardize the health of patients.
- AHA wrote that the “threat of criminal sanctions will interfere with the exercise of health care providers’ expert judgment in the provision of medically necessary care. And this sort of chilling effect is particularly troubling in the emergency room context, where providers must make life-or-death decisions in the heat of the moment— and where delay or restraint can make all the difference.”
State-Imposed Restrictions on Abortion Care Disproportionately Impact Communities of Color, Rural Communities, and Low-Income Communities.
- All five organizations described their fears that abortion bans will exacerbate existing health inequities. CDC data already show that Black and Indigenous women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and state-level abortion bans will make these disparities even worse.
State-Imposed Restrictions on Abortion Care Result in Broader Restrictions on Medical Care and Medical Education.
- The consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe extend beyond reproductive health care and are already impacting patients with autoimmune diseases, patients living in chronic pain, and many others, putting additional burdens on already stressed health care systems.
- APhA wrote that “Indirectly, state-imposed restrictions on abortion care have impacted pregnancy care, reproductive care, and other forms of health care. Many of these issues have been the result of vaguely worded state policies that could be interpreted as being more broadly applied to patients even if they are not receiving care related to an abortion.”
Republicans’ Proposed National Abortion Ban Would Have Devastating Impact on Women’s Health and the Entire Health Care System.
- PRH wrote that “Efforts to ban abortion across the nation will continue to cause devastating harm to people and continue to exacerbate this country’s maternal health crises. Data shows that current efforts to ban abortion would lead to a 24 percent increase in maternal mortality overall. The consequences would be even more dire for Black women. It is projected that abortion bans are estimated to lead to a 39 percent increase in maternal mortality for Black women and birthing people. Under a federal ban the outcomes for pregnant people and people giving birth would be far worse.”
As abortion rights are under attack by extremist Supreme Court, right-wing state legislatures, and Congressional Republicans, Senator Warren has called on the government to use every tool to protect access to health care and reproductive freedom:
- On October 12, 2022 Senators Warren and Hirono, and Representative Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), along with Democratic Women’s Caucus leadership, Pro-Choice Caucus leadership, led 62 Congressional Democrats in submitting a comment letter in support of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) interim final rule allowing VA to provide abortion counseling and, in some cases, abortions, to pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries, while urging the Department to continue working to ensure veterans and beneficiaries can access care beyond only these limited circumstances.
- On September 22, 2022, Senator Warren opened an investigation into how Senate Republicans’ introduction of a proposal to ban abortion nationwide would impact women’s access to critical pregnancy care, reproductive care, and other types of essential health care.
- On September 8, 2022, Senator Warren joined Senators Hirono, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Duckworth to condemn Republican attacks on the Biden administration’s landmark announcement last week that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) will provide abortion care to veterans and their eligible dependents to protect the health and life of the mother and in cases of rape or incest.
- On September 2, 2022, Senators Warren and Hirono applauded the Department of Veterans Affairs’ announcement that it will begin offering abortion services in certain circumstances.
- On August 10, 2022, Senator Warren opened an investigation into how state abortion bans enacted by right-wing legislators have affected women’s access to urgent and critical pregnancy care, reproductive care, and even non-reproductive health care.
- On August 5, 2022, Senator Warren spoke on the floor of the Senate about the need to crack down on the deceptive and misleading practices employed by many crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). Senator Warren also spoke on the need to bring the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act up for a vote. The legislation would direct the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit deceptive or misleading advertising that many CPCs use to dissuade patients from getting the reproductive care they need, including abortion care.
- On August 4, 2022, Senators Warren, Hirono, and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), outlining concrete actions HHS can take to help meet President Biden’s goal of protecting and expanding access to medication abortion.
- On July 28, 2022, Senators Warren and Hirono led 23 of their colleagues in a letter to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), calling on the VA to take immediate administrative action to offer abortions and all abortion-related services to veterans and eligible dependents
- On July 21, 2022, Senators Warren and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent letters to Bark Technologies, Gaggle.net, GoGuardian, and Securly Inc., raising concerns that the software these companies use to monitor students’ online activity could be used to criminalize or punish students who are seeking information about abortion services and reproductive health care.
- On July 19, 2022, Senators Warren, Murray, and Smith led a group of their Democratic colleagues to introduce the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act, a bill to protect access to critical reproductive health care services—like birth control, cancer screenings, and more—by providing a consistent and strong source of funding for the Title X Family Planning Program.
- On July 14, 2022 Senators Warren, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and over a dozen other Senate Democrats wrote to President Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, urging them to immediately declare national and public health emergencies over Americans’ access to reproductive care.
- On July 7, 2022, Senators Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sent letters to Facebook and Instagram, calling on them to address their reported censorship of posts related to abortion services, following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last month.
- On July 7, 2022, Senator Warren announced two key data brokers’ commitments to permanently stop selling the location data of people seeking abortion services.
- On June 23, 2022, Senators Warren and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) introduced the Stop Anti-Abortion Disinformation Act, legislation that would crack down on false advertising that crisis pregnancy centers employ to dissuade patients from getting the reproductive care they need, including abortion care.
- On June 22, 2022, following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Senators Warren and Smith wrote an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the next steps in the fight to protect the right to an abortion, including calling for the declaration of a public health emergency.
- On June 15, 2022, Senator Warren introduced the Health and Location Data Protection Act, legislation that bans data brokers from selling some of the most sensitive data available about everyday Americans: their health and location data.
- On June 7, 2022, Senators Warren and Murray led 23 of their Senate colleagues in a letter to President Biden urging him to immediately issue an executive order directing the federal government to develop a national plan to defend Americans’ fundamental reproductive rights, including their right to an abortion.
- On May 17, 2022, Senator Warren led thirteen of her Senate colleagues in letters to two data brokers demanding answers regarding their collection and sale of the cellphone-based location data of people who visit abortion clinics such as Planned Parenthood.
- On May 10, 2022, Senator Warren delivered a speech on the floor of the United States Senate on the need to protect the constitutional right to an abortion, pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, and fight back against Republican extremism.
- On May 9, 2022, Senator Warren wrote an op-ed in Marie Claire about the need to enshrine the right to an abortion in federal law.
- On May 3, 2022, when the draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked, Senator Warren spoke on the steps of the Supreme Court twice to activists, protestors, and the nation about the need to protect abortion rights.