Aug. 1, 2017 – States with the highest number of abortion restrictions tend to have the worst women and children’s health outcomes and fewest supportive policies that would actually advance the health and well-being of families—according to an updated report released by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Ibis Reproductive Health today.

The report—titled Evaluating Priorities: Measuring Women and Children’s Health and Well-being against Abortion Restrictions in the States, Volume II—provides an update to the inaugural version of the report, originally published in 2014.  As in 2014, the updated version challenges the claims of politicians who have passed abortion restrictions under the guise of protecting women’s health and safety.  Indeed, the report finds that many of the states that have the highest number of restrictions included in the research—including Texas (11 restrictions), Louisiana (13 restrictions), and Arkansas (13 restrictions) —have dramatically fewer policies that would truly address the challenges women and their families face.  Shareable infographics that illustrate the report’s findings are available on Ibis Reproductive Health’s website.

The worst offenders—states that have passed ten or more of the restrictions included in analyses—account for a disproportionately large number of the nearly 400 abortion restrictions politicians have passed since 2010. And the trend continues; in the last three weeks the Texas legislature has introduced almost 20 new anti-abortion restrictions in a Special Legislative Session, convened after the end of the official session.  Additionally, the Center for Reproductive Rights has filed legal challenges to restrictions on a woman’s right to safe and legal abortion in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas in the last six weeks.

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

“This report makes clear that politicians in states with the most extreme record of attacking reproductive rights are also far less likely to support the kind of programs and policies that actually advance the health and well-being of families.”

“As a result, women and children in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and other states with the harshest abortion restriction also suffer some of the nation’s worst health outcomes.

“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. 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.”

For years, politicians have claimed their motive in passing abortion restrictions was to protect women’s health and safety.  The Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt challenged that claim, instead underscoring the importance that real data and women’s lived experiences—and not fake news or false information—should play in reproductive health policy.  Today’s report emphasizes that legislators should be taking their cues from data and their constituents’ needs to address the real health concerns in their states, and should stop playing politics with women’s reproductive rights and health.

“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”, said Terri-Ann Thompson, PhD, Associate at Ibis Reproductive Health

“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 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.  To improve the nation’s health, policymakers must prioritize implementation of policies shown to improve the well-being of women and children, and not on restricting access to needed health care services such as abortion.

The findings in the report include:

  • The more abortion restrictions a state has on the books, the fewer evidence-based policies in place that promote the health and well-being of women and children.
    • For example, Louisiana has 13 laws restricting a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion, but only 11 policies (out of the possible 24 included in the analysis) which support the health and well-being of women and children.
  • States that have the most restrictions on abortion tend to have the worst health outcomes for women and children.
    • For example, Texas has 11 laws restricting a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion on the books and also some of the worst health outcomes for women and children.  Specifically, Texas performs worse than the national benchmarks on maternal, infant, and teen mortality rates.

Today’s report comes as the politicians in the Senate continually attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—a move which threatens to leave millions without coverage, strip protections for guaranteed coverage of critical women’s health services, and undermine Medicaid.