According to an analysis of federal data by The Associated Press, states with some of the strictest abortion laws in the nation are also among the most difficult places to have and raise a healthy child, especially for women. poor.
The findings raise questions about the strength of the social safety net as these states are set to further restrict or even ban access to abortion following an expected Supreme Court ruling. United States later this year. The burden is likely to fall heaviest on low-income people, who are also the least able to seek an abortion in another state where the procedure remains widely available.
Mississippi has the highest proportion of children living in poverty and low birth weight babies in the nation, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and Centers for Disease Control, the latest available. Texas has the highest rate of women receiving no prenatal care in their first trimester and ranks second in the proportion of uninsured poor children, the data shows.
The laws of both states are at the center of the national fight over access to abortion. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has signaled its willingness in a Mississippi case to gut or strike down Roe v. Wade.
Anti-abortion lawmakers have said they would encourage more adoption and foster care programs if abortion were banned, as well as funding alternatives to abortion programs.
If Roe is overturned, 26 states are certain or likely to quickly ban abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a think tank that supports abortion rights. Many of these states ranked poorly on measures that nonpartisan advocacy groups say are essential to ensuring children have a good start.
Data analyzed by the AP illustrates the barriers pregnant women and their children face in states with the strictest abortion restrictions and how access to resources can lag behind that of States that also have more permissive abortion laws.
Jazmin Arroyo, a 25-year-old single mother in Kokomo, Indiana, had to stop working as a receptionist after the birth of her first child because she couldn’t afford daycare.
Arroyo got a job as a restaurant host, but he didn’t offer insurance and his second child has a heart defect. She now has thousands of unpaid medical bills.
“I could never have imagined how difficult it would end up being,” she said.
Indiana has the second highest rate of women – 18% – who do not receive prenatal care during their first trimester and has a high percentage of poor children without insurance, more than 9%.
The AP analyzed numbers from multiple federal government agencies across seven categories — metrics identified by multiple nonprofits and experts as key to determining whether children are off to a good start.
In general, states that had adopted preventive abortion bans or laws that severely restricted access to abortion had the worst rankings. Alabama and Louisiana joined Mississippi as the top three states with the highest percentage of babies born with low birth weight. Texas, Indiana, and Mississippi had the highest percentage of women receiving no prenatal care during their first trimester.
In response to the AP’s findings, many conservative lawmakers said women could give their newborn babies up for adoption and said they would support increased funding for foster care programs. In Oklahoma, GOP Senate Chairman Pro Tem Greg Treat said he would work to raise wages for child protection workers and state money for adopting parents adoptive.
“There is going to be a commitment there, but it will not be a new commitment. It will be an ongoing effort on our part,” he said.
Some democratically controlled states with more permissive abortion laws also performed poorly in some categories.
New Mexico ranks third in the share of its children living in poverty, Delaware ranks fifth in the percentage of women who do not receive early prenatal care, and California is among the top five states – between Oklahoma and Arkansas – for the share of women and children on food stamps.
These states are usually outliers. Overwhelmingly, the data shows far more challenges for newborns, children, and their parents in states that restrict abortion.
Abortion restrictions and troubling economic data are not directly linked, but finances are one of the main reasons women seek abortions, according to research by Diana Greene Foster, professor of reproductive sciences at the University of California at San Francisco.
Children born to women who have been denied abortions are more likely to live in a household where there is not enough money for basic expenses, her work has found.
Last year, Texas passed an unusual law that leaves the application of a six-week abortion ban to civilians — a law that the Supreme Court largely left in place.
Maleeha Aziz, organizer of the Texas Equal Access Fund, had an abortion while a student at the age of 20, after birth control failed. She also suffered from a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, which causes persistent and extreme nausea and vomiting.
“I was a vegetable. I couldn’t move,” said Aziz, who later had a daughter. “Pregnancy is no joke. It’s the hardest thing a person’s body can go through.”
In Texas, 20% of women do not receive prenatal care during their first trimester, according to pregnancy risk assessment data collected by the CDC in 2016, the most recent data available in that state. Lack of prenatal care increases the risk of the mother dying or delivering a low birth weight baby.
Texas abortion haters also point to a program called Abortion Alternatives. As with similar groups in other states, it funds pregnancy counseling, adoption services, and classes in life skills, budgeting, and parenting.
“This social service network is really critical in our minds to support pregnant women and future families right now,” said John Seago, Legislative Director of Texas Right to Life.
Most of these groups, commonly known as crisis pregnancy centers, are not licensed to provide medical care.
Lo is a former Associated Press data reporter. AP writers Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City also contributed; Casey Smith in Indianapolis; and Jamie Stengle in Dallas; and data journalist Linda Gorman in Boston. Former AP writers Iris Samuels in Helena, Montana, and Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge. Louisiana, also contributed.
Fassett is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.