Jan 19, 2023 - Health

Report: Mothers in states with abortion bans nearly 3 times more likely to die

Maternal deaths, grouped by state abortion status
Data: Gender Equity Policy Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

Women in states with abortion bans are nearly three times more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth or soon after giving birth, according to a report from the Gender Equity Policy Institute shared first with Axios.

The big picture: The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate among developed nations, and government officials and health experts are concerned that conditions will worsen now that a federal right to abortion has been struck down.

  • The report authors wrote that "people in banned and restrictive states have worse outcomes than their counterparts in supportive states," adding that anti-abortion states "are less likely to enact policies, like paid parental leave, which have been shown to improve outcomes for new parents and babies."
  • These conditions, the report says are "more precarious" for the six in 10 women (59%) live in states that "ban or restrict abortion care and other reproductive health care."

Details: The Gender Equity Policy Institute divided states into three groups — supportive of abortion access, restrictive and banned — and compared data on reproductive health outcomes between 2015 and 2021.

  • 29 states were in the "banned" and "restrictive categories" and 21 states and the District of Columbia were in the "supportive" category.

By the numbers: The report found that maternal mortality rates in states with bans was "significantly higher" than in supportive states. In 2018, the maternal mortality rate in banned states was nearly two times higher than in supportive states, by 2021, it was 2.4 times higher.

  • Maternal mortality weighed heaviest on women of color: Native American women's maternal mortality rates were 4.5 times higher than those of white women and Black women's rates were 2.6 times the rate of white women.

Of note: The report also found that infants born in states with abortion bans were 30% more likely to die than those in supportive states.

What's next: Natalia Vega Varela, senior researcher and lead report author, said that this report is the first in a series of annual reports evaluating reproductive health in the U.S.

  • "This year’s study is designed to establish the baseline for that ongoing assessment. In short, it answers a critical question: Before the constitutional right to abortion was stripped away by the Supreme Court, what was the state of reproductive and sexual health in the U.S?.” 

Go deeper: Health experts see rise in maternal mortality post-Roe

Go deeper