Abortion is essential to reproductive autonomy—the power to decide and control one’s own pregnancies and childbearing—and is widely considered an essential component of health care. The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe v. Wade limits this autonomy by giving states the power to fully regulate abortion. As a result, where one lives impacts access to abortion more than it has in the past 50 years. As of this writing, abortion is now effectively banned in many states, with even more considering additional restrictions (see resources below for a link to up-to-date policies across states). In this blog, we review research on how restricted access to abortion harms the health and well-being of women and children.[1]

Limited access to abortion negatively impacts the health and well-being of those forced to carry a pregnancy to term.

The most rigorous research to date on this topic, the Turnaway study, compared outcomes for similar women of near-similar gestation who sought abortions, but some of whom were turned away. Women who were turned away—and carried the pregnancy to term—were more likely than those who obtained an abortion to face life-threatening complications such as pre-eclampsia or hemorrhage, and were more likely to report chronic headaches, joint pain, and gestational hypertension. They were more likely to stay in an abusive partnership and, five years later, were also more likely to be parenting alone. Additionally, women who were turned away were more likely to live in poverty; to have less money for food, housing, and transportation; to have lower credit scores; to have substantially higher debt; and to experience bankruptcy or eviction. Women who carried a baby to term after being denied an abortion were also less likely to bond with their children in early childhood.


Footnote

[1] Although research on abortion among transgender and non-binary people who do not identify as women or girls is extremely limited, abortion restrictions will impact the well-being of these groups as well.

[2] These issues are likely relevant for other racial and ethnic groups such as American Indians/Alaska Natives and Pacific Islanders. Unfortunately, abortion data for these groups are hard to obtain.