Conservative explains how 'forced birth' laws will kill American women

Conservative explains how 'forced birth' laws will kill American women

Over the years, countless abortion rights activists have warned that overturning Roe v. Wade would create a surge in women dying from illegal and dangerous back-alley abortions, which were common before the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Roe decision in 1973. But back-alley abortions are by no means the only reason why pregnancies, planned or unplanned, could prove dangerous or fatal for American women now that the High Court, after 49 years, has overturned Roe with its widely protested ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Conservative Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin, in her July 27 column, lays out some of the many reasons why planned or unplanned pregnancies could become more dangerous for women in the post-Roe United States.

“No health-care provider or researcher on maternal health would ever use the term ‘pro-life’ in reference to the forced-birth movement,” Rubin argues. “We know with great certainty that abortion bans present a serious threat to the lives of women. Indeed, a 2012 study calculated that the risk of death from pregnancy is 14 times that of abortions, which are exceptionally safe thanks to advances in medicine. We also know the risk of death from pregnancy is also three to four times greater for Black women, because of higher rates of poor health and poverty, more limited access to health care and discrimination by health-care providers.”

READ MORE: How the 'unprecedented' Supreme Court leak made efforts to lobby conservatives on Roe 'all but impossible': report

Unlike other pro-choice columns that have been published since the Dobbs decision, Rubin doesn’t focus heavily on illegal or back-alley abortions. Instead, she describes a variety of other reasons why post-Roe “forced birth” will be potentially dangerous for American women, from poverty to lack of health insurance to weak or inadequate maternal care to OB-GYNs who are now afraid to do their jobs.

Amanda Stevenson, an assistant sociology professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a leading researcher on abortion bans, projected in a study published last year, based on 2017 data, that if the United States had a nationwide abortion ban, there would be a 21 percent increase in pregnancy-related deaths,” Rubin explains. “Deaths among non-Hispanic Black people would increase 33 percent. In fact, Stevenson shared with me a pre-print version of an update to that study with 2020 data, which shows even worse numbers: A national ban would result in a 24 percent increase in deaths for all women and a 39 percent for non-Hispanic Black women.”

Rubin continues, “The reasons for the increases in death arise primarily from two factors. First, with more births, we will get more maternal deaths. Second, the composition of the population of women giving birth will include more Black women, who are disproportionately represented in the population of patients seeking an abortion and who are more likely to die from pregnancy. Moreover, the states that seek to ban abortion are the same that rank among the worst in a slew of health indicators — overall health, infant mortality, rates of insurance among low-income women and disparity in health between Blacks and Whites.”

Rubin notes that “many” of the red states that are outlawing abortion now that Roe has been overturned “have not expanded Medicaid.”

READ MORE: Even if Griswold stands, states are likely to ban contraception

“In other words, states looking to force women to have birth have the sickest women and worst health outcomes,” Rubin observes. “The bans will also contribute to more deaths in other ways. If doctors feel compelled to wait until a woman is at immediate risk of death before performing an abortion —

e.g., in cases of ectopic pregnancies or a membrane rupture — there will be more ‘near misses.’ Accordingly, there will more deaths, Stevenson tells me.”

Rubin warns that the post-Roe landscape in the U.S. will also be dangerous for pregnant women who aren’t even seeking abortions.

“Even among women not seeking abortions,” the columnist notes, “the risk of death will increase. The Texas Tribune reports: ‘Abortion-inducing medication is the most common method used by Texans to terminate pregnancies, according to Texas Health and Human Services. But it also has a broad range of other uses in obstetrics and gynecology, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, including medical management of miscarriage, induction of labor, cervical dilation before surgical procedures, and treatment of postpartum hemorrhage.’ To the extent doctors worried about criminal liability hesitate to use these drugs, women’s health and lives will be at risk.”

Rubin adds, “In sum, when courts decide that women cannot make critical decisions for themselves and that the impact of abortion on their lives doesn’t matter, they become not only second-class citizens, but are also at greater risk of death. Call it anti-woman or pro-maternal death, but please don’t call the forced-birth movement ‘pro-life.’”

READ MORE: With Roe overturned, Clarence Thomas is now preparing for a full-frontal assault on contraception, gay rights

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