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Two studies show how abortion restrictions undermine medical care

Two studies show how abortion restrictions undermine medical care

by Zawn Villines
Daily Kos
October 5, 2023

State-level abortion restrictions compromise access to medical care, according to two new studies.

One, just published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that new medical school graduates are avoiding states with restrictive abortion laws.

The second study, also published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that access to pediatric cardiologists will decline in the wake of abortion bans. These bans will increase the number of babies born with heart defects, including a relatively common defect that can be fatal even with extensive (and expensive) medical treatment.

Abortion restrictions decrease access to medical care

Two studies show how abortion restrictions undermine medical careIn the study of med school graduate placements, researchers polled 350 graduating obstetricians from 37 states. Seventeen percent reported that the end of Roe v. Wade had changed their practice plans, including the states in which they are willing to practice. It might seem like a small figure, but over time, these numbers accumulate into significant medical shortages.

Many states with restrictive abortion laws already face significant doctor shortages, and high maternal mortality rates. Georgia, for example, lacks obstetricians and/or hospitals in most counties, and has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation.

Maternal mortality in the United States continues to rise, and was already at a crisis point before the end of Roe. In 2021, the last year for which data is available, it increased dramatically—from 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births to 32.9 per 100,000 live births. This is in spite of significant drops virtually everywhere else in the world. The shortage of doctors, coupled with a lack of access to life-saving care, will likely cause maternal deaths to soar even higher.

The horror stories of women denied care for stillbirths, hemorrhages, and fatal fetal defects continue to accumulate, leaving behind traumatized and disabled women and families. Abortion restrictions potentially affect as many as a third of pregnant people, and may endanger the lives of 10%.

The new data, though, points to wider reaching effects. A shortage of OB/GYNs means longer waits for live-saving cancer care, STI prevention and treatment, vital screenings, and more. It also means that people who choose (or are forced) to keep their pregnancies may not have access to quality care. This could kill even more women and their babies.

How abortion restrictions may kill babies

In the study of pediatric heart disease, researchers looked at a group of heart defects that are inevitably fatal without treatment—and fatal in up to 30% of cases even with painful, expensive treatment.

The study predicts an increase in the number of babies born with these catastrophic defects each year. It also estimates a significant increase in the use of expensive medical equipment and cardiologists, potentially reducing overall access to these resources and endangering more lives. Without prompt access to care, the overall death rate from these conditions could increase.

This isn’t an unintended consequence. The entire purpose of these restrictions is to control women, to punish them for getting pregnant, to reduce or remove their access to opportunity. Babies are mere collateral damage, and conservative lawmakers don’t care about them anyway.

Research shows us that abortion restrictions lower women’s wages, increase maternal mortality, cause mental illness to increase, and even lead to higher rates of child abuse. The leading cause of death for pregnant women is murder. Domestic violence often occurs for the first time when a woman is pregnant. Abortion regulations are working exactly as intended, as evidenced by the fact that Republican legislators have done nothing to offset their worst effects.

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