Anti-abortion restrictions are often passed in the name of women and children’s health. Legislators have argued that laws putting unnecessary demands on abortion providers and the clinics in which they work are crucial to keep women safe. They have said that controversial fetal burial rules that require clinics to bury or cremate all tissue after an abortion or miscarriage are rooted in promoting public health.
But a new report released by two major reproductive rights groups on Tuesday shows just how hollow those claims are.
The report, which analyzed legislative priorities across the country, found that the states with the most abortion restrictions on the books had also enacted the fewest policies proven to actually support the health of women and children living there. Those evidence-based supportive policies include things like expanded family and medical leave and access to early intervention services for kids with developmental delays.
And, unsurprisingly, mothers and children living in those states also tended to perform worse on key health indicators, including maternal mortality and access to preventive care.
“What our report does is challenge the claims of politicians who have passed abortion restrictions under the guise of protecting women’s health and safety,” Terri-Ann Thompson, an associate with Ibis Reproductive Health ― the research group that released the new report in conjunction with The Center For Reproductive Rights ― told HuffPost.
“Many of the states that have the highest number of restrictions included in our survey had dramatically fewer policies that would truly address the challenges women and families face,” she continued.
Though the goal of the analysis was to provide a broad snapshot of legislative priorities across the country, Thompson singled out certain states where the disconnect between rhetoric and policy is particularly stark. Louisiana, for example, has 13 laws restricting abortion ― including things like parental consent, mandatory ultrasounds and strict limits on abortions at or after 20 weeks. Legislators there, including former Gov. Bobby Jindal, have hailed such measures as “protecting women” from “traumatic” abortions. But the state has only 11 policies that actually promote the health of women and children and high rates of infant and maternal mortality.
Similarly, Texas has at least 11 laws curbing abortion access ― and some of the worst health outcomes for women and children in the United States.
Thompson said she hopes the report ― a follow-up to a similar 2014 analysis ― will help shift the national conversation toward policies that have been shown to make a meaningful difference in the lives of women and children.
“The facts are that supportive policies lead to better health outcomes. The facts are that abortion restrictions are harmful to women and their families,” she said. “So what we want to say to [legislators] is that if the goal is improving health, focus your policies on where you’ll be able help women and their families rather than on abortion restriction.”