US abortion bans hamper medical standards and put patients at risk, study reveals News
US abortion bans hamper medical standards and put patients at risk, study reveals

Healthcare providers in states with abortion bans are unable to meet the standard of care, resulting in negative health outcomes for their patients, a new study reveals.

The report was published by Care Post-Roe, a project aimed at studying the impacts of narrowing abortion rights across the United States. The study is organized by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) based at The University of Texas at Austin and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) based at the University of California San Francisco. The report first provides a comprehensive display of how states have changed their abortion policies since June 2022 when the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization declined to recognize a constitutional right to abortion, overturning Roe v. Wade precedent. Currently, fourteen states have bans that either criminalize abortion entirely or prohibit it at six weeks since a woman’s last menstrual period. Four additional states have bans that prohibit abortion at 15-20 weeks since a woman’s last menstrual period. According to the report, between September 29, 2022 and March 30, 2023, the study received 50 submissions narrating cases of reproductive care that deviated from the traditional standard due to restrictive laws on abortion. All 50 of these instances occurred in the states with strict bans described above.

Among the submissions, many described obstetric complications in the second trimester, including preterm prelabor rupture of membranes. According to the report, the usual recommendation in these cases would be an abortion, because patients can develop life-threatening infections. In states with abortion bans, however, physicians are instructed to send these patients home.

The submissions also described new challenges regarding ectopic pregnancies, which are never viable and can be very dangerous. In several cases, legally imposed delays and bureaucratic barriers to care have caused patients to require additional surgeries, continue life-threatening pregnancies, experience painful  side effects, and fear legal retaliation.

The report also discusses how needing to travel out of state to receive care creates undue financial burden, employment-related problems, and delayed care for patients. Some of the submissions detailed underlying medical conditions, fetal anomalies, and early miscarriage. Additionally, the report notes that while the preliminary results are only able to address short-term effects of abortion bans, there are likely also long-term effects that patients will encounter.

The report comes as abortion bans are being struck down in many states, including Nebraska, North Carolina, and South Carolina. North Dakota, however, recently passed one of the strictest bans in the nation. At a federal level, the Supreme Court recently upheld access to abortion pill mifepristone.