5 Things Health Experts Want You to Know About Abortion Bans

The Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion on June 24, 2022; abortion access is based on state law.

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Loss of abortion rights hurts women's health and well-being on several levels.

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The decision, which invalidates the 1973 Roe v. Wade court ruling that made abortion access the law of the land in the United States, means that states will determine whether it is legal to seek an abortion. Depending on where a person lives, it may be necessary to travel long distances to find a state and clinic that can perform an abortion within the time frame where the procedure is allowed, depending on how far along the pregnancy is.

Here’s what women’s health advocates want you to know.

1. The Loss of Abortion Rights Will Further Harm Minorities and Those With Less Money

Being forced to raise children limits a person’s ability to work and build a sustainable career over the long-term. “People will suffer,” said Raegan McDonald-Mosley, MD, MPH, the CEO of Power to Decide, a campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy. “They will miss work, and will have to travel long distances [to states where abortion is still legal]. The consequences will fall most heavily on people of color, and people who live with lower incomes, those in rural areas, and younger people — those under 18. People unable to get abortions are more likely to live in poverty, and their children are less likely to meet [developmental] milestones. The stakes are high," Dr. McDonald-Mosley says.

Women in the United States already have higher death rates while pregnant, during childbirth, or soon after delivering a child than other developed countries, and the risk is significantly higher for Black and Hispanic mothers. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report from February 2022, such deaths increased from 2018 to 2020.

2. This Decision Isn’t Science-Based

“There is no public health reason that is valid to restrict access to abortion,” says McDonald-Mosley. All the public health and medical data about the implications of abortion show that the opposite is true, she says.

“Abortion is very safe at any stage of pregnancy,” said Katie Woodruff, DrPH, a public health social scientist at ANSIRH (Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health), a program of the department of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California in San Francisco. “In fact, carrying a pregnancy to term is much riskier to people’s physical health. People should have the right to decide for themselves when and whether to take on that risk.”

3. Abortion Denial Hurts People

Dr. Woodruff was part of the Turnaway Study, which found that people who wanted abortions but could not get them because of legal limitations where they lived had poorer health outcomes.

“Our research shows that when we deny people abortion care, it causes real, lasting harm to families and children,” she said. “People who can’t get the abortion they want and instead are forced to give birth have worse physical health, are less likely to achieve their life goals, and are more likely to live in poverty for years to come, than people who did get an abortion.”

Similarly, children whose mothers were denied an abortion are more likely to grow up in poverty and to miss their developmental milestones, she said.

“The science is clear: Access to abortion is good for pregnant people, their families, and their communities,” Woodruff said.

4. Abortion Prohibition Rejects People’s Personal Autonomy

Pregnancy should never be a punishment.

“People who are pregnant can and do make the right decisions for themselves,” says Woodruff. “Many people don’t realize that the most common emotion following abortion is relief. The vast majority of people who have abortions are certain about their decision and continue to believe it was the right decision for them, even years later."

5. Worldwide, Abortion Access Is Expanding

In contrast to the United States, several countries are newly allowing or expanding abortion access, says McDonald-Mosley. In 2020, Northern Ireland legalized abortions after long restricting them; the Republic of Ireland did so in 2018. In 2021, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled abortions were constitutional, and in February 2022, Colombia legalized abortion through 24 weeks of pregnancy.

“In the U.S., we are going in the opposite direction,” she says.