Louisiana’s strict abortion laws could propel its maternal mortality rate even higher
Abortion rights supporters gather at the Unitarian Church in Baton Rouge on June 24, 2022, after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Data show states with strict abortion laws like Louisiana have high infant and maternal morbidity rates. (JC Canicosa/Louisiana Illuminator)
As someone who considers himself pro-life, I should be celebrating the recent Dobbs case that the Supreme Court used to overturn Roe v. Wade. But I’m very concerned today. I believe such a ruling will not only fail to reduce the abortion rate, but could very well lead to an increase in maternal death rates and infant mortality rates.
Former President Bill Clinton once said that abortion should be safe, legal and rare. Yet I fear that through such court battles, we’ve only focused on whether it should be legal or not. So much money has been spent on presidential and congressional races, all about whether or not the court should overturn Roe.
Many in the pro-life movement made getting rid of Roe the goal. It was treated like a political victory, like taking an opponent’s sword after some 18th century battle, instead of supporting a myriad of policies that would actually do something about supporting not just life, but a quality of life worth living. See the connection between mortality rates and antiabortion laws.
Take the case of maternal mortality rates. California has the lowest recorded maternal mortality rate (4.0 mother deaths per 100,000 births). It’s not an accident, as this death rate plunged by more than 50% since the state passed the California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative in 2006. Massachusetts, Nevada, Connecticut and Colorado also round out the lowest five states for recorded maternal mortality rates (between 8.4 and 11.5 per 100,000 births), according to World Population Review. All took deliberate steps to help a mother during the process of birth.
Louisiana, on the other hand, has a shocking 58.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 births, the highest in America. Not coincidentally, it has the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country, according to a CBS analysis of state policies.
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Then there’s Arkansas, with the fourth toughest anti-abortion laws, and the fifth highest maternal mortality rate (37.5 per 100,000 births). Missouri, which is tied with Arkansas for fourth toughest antiabortion laws, is seventh on the maternal mortality rate list from WPR (37.5 per 100k births). Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, and Indiana are also in the top 19 states toughest abortion laws, and the top 10 states for maternal mortality rates (each with more than 27 mothers dying per 100,000 births).
Have those who pushed for pro-life policies worked just as hard for universal health care, universal child care, or even voted for paid family and medical leave? How many babies will be born into a world that lacks such basic protections that most of the developed world offers? Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Ohio are in the top 10 of states with the highest infant mortality rate (according to World Atlas, and are among the states with the top 19 toughest antiabortion laws.
I pray that our state leaders will write laws in a way that will not boost mortality rates, just to appease a political ideology instead of the Almighty. Support bipartisan legislation like the bill from Senators Raphael Warnock, D-GA, and Marco Rubio, R-FL, that seek to reduce maternal deaths from childbirth and efforts to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage. Find ways to make pro-life about saving lives, not scoring political points.
This commentary first appeared in the Iowa Capital Dispatch, part of the States Newsroom network of news bureaus that includes the Louisiana Illuminator.
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