Lots more maternal mortality

What happens if the forced birth lunatics do prevail and Brett Kavanaugh & co do overturn Roe v Wade and all those state laws banning abortion become law?

None of the restrictions have gone into effect, either because of delays built into the legislation itself or legal challenges. If they do, they’ll spark an unintentional, vast experiment in public health. Already, states with the most restrictions on access to abortions are also those with the highest rates of maternal and infant mortality. The connection isn’t direct—abortion access can be a kind of proxy for access to all sorts of pre- and postnatal health care, not to mention correlating roughly with better-funded education systems, lower poverty rates, and tighter environmental regulation. But evidence from history does suggest a hypothesis: More women and babies are going to get sick, be poor, and die.

Other countries have already run this experiment.

Take Romania. Abortion was legal there until 1966, when Nicolae Ceausescu became president and outlawed it, along with contraception. He said he wanted to increase the number of native-born Romanians. Women were forced to get pelvic inspections at work. Police informers roamed maternity hospitals. Performing abortions was a crime.

As a result, the birth rate in Romania went up for a couple years, and then in 1970 it went into freefall. Deaths from complications resulting from attempted, illegal abortions increased to 10 times that of the rest of Europe—about 500 women a year, more than 10,000 women over two decades. The maternal mortality rate spiked to 150 women per 100,000 births. That number is insanely high. Today, when the US has the worst maternal mortality in the industrialized world, it’s only a sixth of that (except in Louisiana, where the maternal mortality rate for women over 35 years of age is a 1980s-Romania-adjacent 145.9 per 100,000 births). Also, nearly 200,000 children were put in hellish orphanages.

That could be our future! And, in fact, probably will, because the Court is majority-HandmaidsTale.

In December of 1989 a revolution cleared out Ceausescu’s government. The new leadership instituted an emergency public health measure to legalize abortion and contraception. The maternal mortality rate fell 50 percent in the first year.

Is this bumming you out? Here’s the converse. Amid worries about maternal mortality, Nepal legalized abortion in 2002. Over the next decade or so, 1,200 clinicians learned to provide abortions, and 500,000 women got them. The maternal mortality rate dropped from 360 to 170 per 100,000 live births, and while the number of abortion complications went up—along with total hospital admissions and total live births—the number of serious complications went down.

But we’re busy racing off in the opposite direction.

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