So-called “trigger” laws, other anti-abortion measures and forthcoming legislation to severely restrict abortion access are likely to outlaw abortion care in roughly half the US without protections under Roe v Wade, the landmark abortion rights decision that was struck down by the US Supreme Court.
Abortion rights advocates, physicians and medical experts have warned that the end of protections for legal abortion will exacerbate a growing crisis for maternal healthcare.
Nearly one in four women with children live in poverty in states where abortion will be illegal and providers will be prosecuted under anti-abortion “trigger” laws designed to take effect without constitutional protections for the right to an abortion, according to an analysis from NBC News.
Utah and Wyoming, two states with “trigger” laws for abortion care, have the lowest maternal poverty rates in the US. But nine of the 13 states with such laws have some of the highest rates of women with children in poverty in the country.
“Trigger” law states Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia represent four of the five worst maternal poverty levels in the US, with rates above 30 per cent.
Meanwhile, In New Mexico, where abortion is legal, the maternal povety rate is roughly 33 per cent – the highest in the country.
NBC News relied on the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of women aged 15 to 50 years who gave birth while in poverty between 2015 and 2020.
Roughly one in seven women and girls between the ages of 15 and 44 live in families below the federal poverty level, according to maternal and child health organisation March of Dimes.
The poverty threshold for a family of three was $20,231 in 2018 and $20,598 in 2019.
The Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group, found that maternal health access is also far worse in the 26 states poised to outlaw or severely restrict abortion.
In Louisiana, for example, a state where abortion patients will have to travel farther than patients in any other state to access legal care if legal challenges against the state’s ban on abortion care is upheld, huge swaths of the state have little to no access to hospital obstetric services, OB-GYN doctors, birth centres and other maternal healthcare, according to a 2020 report from March of Dimes.
The nation’s rates of pregnancy-related deaths have steadily risen in recent years, easily outpacing other industrialised nations with the worst maternal mortality rate among them.
States with restrictive abortion laws had a seven per cent higher maternal mortality rate than states with fewer restrictions, according to a 2021 study in the American Journal of Public Health. Black women are three times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth than white women.
Black and Latino women are also more likely to lack health insurance in anti-abortion states; 33 per cent of Latinos living in states with “trigger” laws are uninsured, compared to 21 per cent of Latinos in states with legal abortion.
Last month, the Biden administration released its White House Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, which intends to expand healthcare coverage and expand a workforce that care for pregnancy people, support low-income patients with support during and after a pregnancy, and address biases in healthcare that prevent patients from getting the care they need.
The administration is calling on Congress to expand Medicaid, the federal health programme for lower-income Americans. The programme covers roughly 42 per cent of all births in the US, but in many states it covers only the first 60 days after a birth. Only 14 states have expanded that coverage to a full year.
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