Abortion, Every Day (10.17.23)
New study shows higher infant mortality in states with abortion restrictions
In Stats & Studies, new research shows the link between abortion restrictions & infant mortality. In the States, the latest in Ohio and Florida. In the Nation, the Democratic Women’s Caucus warns Republicans not to include abortion restrictions in the National Defense Authorization Act. A new anti-abortion ad from Trump in 2024 news. And in Criminalizing Care, anti-abortion groups are targeting an entire city under the Texas bounty hunter mandate.
Stats & Studies
We’re starting with research today because that’s how important this study is. (I also haven’t seen anyone else write about it??) Research published last week in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that states with abortion restrictions had a 16% increased infant mortality rate.
Now, we know from previous studies that abortion restrictions have been linked to rises in both maternal and infant death—with one report showing that states with heavily restricted abortion access had maternal death rates a whopping 62% higher than states where abortion was accessible. We also know that after Texas passed its abortion ban, infant mortality shot up. So the results of this research are not a surprise.
But here’s what’s interesting (and urgent) about this new study: it found that abortion restrictions made more of an impact on infant mortality than socioeconomic factors. Researchers looked at how many people in the counties they studied lived below the federal poverty line, median income, percent of those unemployed and more—and still, abortion restrictions impacted the infant death rate more. That’s really fucking significant!
What’s also notable is that the data is pre-Dobbs—it came from 2014–2018. That means these numbers are likely to get much, much worse.
Researchers also found that the mortality rate for Black infants was more than twice that of White infants—which aligns with the increasing crisis in maternal health and mortality among Black women in the U.S.
What’s also not surprising—but incredibly important—is the connection between an increased infant mortality rate and inadequate prenatal care. Researchers point out that inability to get adequate care could be related to state restrictions: After all, bans and restrictions impact people’s ability to get contraception, reproductive health care, and their ability to space pregnancies (all of which has gotten worse with the OBGYN exodus we’ve been covering over the last year).
It’s an absolutely devastating, but vital, study.
In the States
Ohio anti-abortion activists seem to believe that they’re going to break the pro-choice winning streak on ballot measures, saying that the extra time and money they’ve had to knock on doors and release ads will put them over the top.
Peter Range, CEO of Ohio Right to Life, also says, “We don’t have to, you know, fine tune our messaging because when people in the state of Ohio learn that this takes away parental rights and consent, whether they’re pro life or pro choice, they’re rejecting it.”
It’s sort of a hilarious statement given that in the last few weeks, anti-abortion activists have changed course—claiming that voters don’t need to vote for Issue 1 because abortion rights are already safe in the state. Conservatives know exactly how popular abortion is, so they’re trying to hide what the law would be without the protection of the pro-choice amendment.
Even Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is trying to play down what Republicans would do if Issue 1 fails. After appearing in an ad this week opposing the measure, this is what DeWine told a local television station:
“I'm confident that we can come up with a law in Ohio that the majority of Ohioans will feel comfortable with in regard to abortion. What that is, I don't exactly know.”
He doesn’t know?? This is the same governor that signed the ‘heartbeat’ bill into effect in 2019. He knows precisely what he’d do if given the chance! Also, since DeWine wants something that majority of voters agree with: a recent poll shows that most Ohioans support protecting abortion in the state constitution.
Related: The 19th with an explainer on Ohio’s Issue 1; and a piece on how none of the conservative scare tactics about parental consent and abortion ‘up until birth’ came to fruition in Michigan after the state passed a similar amendment. Finally, this Issue 1-inspired Halloween decoration brought joy to my heart.
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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it is wild that abortion rights are playing such a central role in the Kentucky gubernatorial race. During a debate last night, Gov. Andy Beshear attacked Daniel Cameron on his extreme anti-abortion stance:
“My opponent’s position would give a rapist more rights than their victim. It is wrong. We need to change this law. We need to make sure that those individuals have that option.”
Cameron has been flip-flopping on whether or not he’d support abortion exceptions—but no matter what he says, we know how extreme he really is: Last month, Abortion, Every Day flagged that Cameron signed a pledge to criminalized birth control. To watch the section of the debate on abortion, click here.
Anti-abortion activists in Florida are backing Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody’s challenge against a pro-choice ballot measure. Moody filed a petition with the state Supreme Court, arguing that the amendment’s definition of ‘viability’ was deliberately vague. (More on that here.) This week, Anthony Verdugo of the Florida Christian Family Coalition repeated that claim to a reporter, and said that the exception for the health of the pregnant person was too broad—claiming that it was “such a huge loophole that you can drive a Mack Truck right through it.” It never ceases to amaze me how eager these people are to admit that they don’t care if women’s health is endangered.
The IndyStar has released a short documentary on how Indiana banned abortion after Roe fell. (They were the first state to do so.) I haven’t watched all of it yet, but I’ve gotta say that this quote from James Bopp Jr of the National Right to Life Committee—talking about how they chipped away at access and framed the terms of the debate and the fight—chilled me to the bone:
“We were passing whatever statutes we could justify under current law…And the pro-choice side was trying to create an absolute right to abortion. So we were creating the battlefield, and then they were coming into the battlefield to fight us, which gave us an advantage all the time.”
You can watch “First to Act” here.
I love this op-ed from Tara Gibson, the executive director of Roe Your Vote Virginia, about how her abortion changed her life for the better. We don’t talk about this enough: the way that abortion builds people’s lives and futures. (Gibson calls it her “Sliding Doors” moment.) Back in 2021, I wrote about the way that abortion gave me the life I have now:
Finally, in yet another reason why I love young feminists: The Los Angeles Times has a website that lets California high school students publish articles, and this one from Angelina Chiang at Orange County School of the Arts is just terrific.
And Planned Parenthood’s New Jersey super PAC is sending out over 150,000 mailers ahead of the off-year election.
In the Nation
The Democratic Women’s Caucus sent a letter yesterday to defense committee leaders, telling them that the inclusion of “any provisions that attack access to reproductive health care” in the National Defense Authorization Act would jeopardize the bill’s final passage. Remember: Republicans have been trying to use the spending bill to repeal the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which allows service members to get time off and travel reimbursements if they needed to leave the state for abortion care.
The Messenger reports on the anti-choice strategy of targeting small towns and counties with anti-abortion ordinances. They spoke to law professor (and friend of AED) David Cohen about the tactic, which is about instilling fear in communities around obtaining abortions or traveling for care. From Cohen:
“The more that they create that confusion, they hope it will cause people to delay or avoid getting an abortion. Confusion is absolutely part of the strategy.”
Diana Greene Foster, lead author of the Turnaway Study, gave a talk at TEDWomen last week about her work and the impact on women who were denied abortions. It doesn’t look like the video of her talk is available yet, but I’m going to be on the lookout and will share when it’s published. (Fun fact: About 10 years ago, I uncovered the fact that TEDWomen had a policy against including talks on abortion. Glad to see things have changed!) For more on the Turnaway Study, STAT News published a piece about Foster and her work this week.
The Washington Post has more on the federal civil rights lawsuit against Etowah County, Alabama, where a woman was forced to give birth in a jail shower;
Britney Spears writes in her new memoir that she had an abortion while dating Justin Timberlake;
For all of Donald Trump’s efforts to appear ‘moderate’ on abortion, he sure doesn’t mind taking credit for the end of Roe! FWIW reports that Trump’s campaign is running new Facebook video ads targeting voters in Iowa that refer to the disgraced former president as “the most pro-life president in history.” If you can stomach it, you can watch them here.
Conservatives are worried about Trump’s ‘fair weather’ abortion position;
The New Republic on Nikki Haley’s faux-moderate stance;
And former Vice President Mike Pence’s presidential campaign has raised $3.3 million during the third quarter.
Leave it to Texas to sue an entire fucking city over abortion. Anti-abortion organizations, led by maniac lawyer Jonathan Mitchell, are suing San Antonio over the city council’s creation of a $500,000 fund to help people access reproductive health services—including out-of-state travel for abortion care.
Mitchell, the architect of Texas’ bounty hunter mandate that allows citizens to sue each other for ‘aiding and abetting’ abortion, filed the suit today. And while the city council members made clear that they would use the fund in accordance with the law, Mitchell’s suit claims that the fund violates the law even if the money isn’t used to pay directly for abortions: “Any such grant aids and abets their criminal activities by freeing up money and resources for their ‘procurement’ of drug-induced abortions.”
This is part of a broader harassment campaign that Mitchell has launched against Texas abortion funds. To support the groups he’s been targeting, give directly to Fund Texas Choice, The Afiya Center, Buckle Bunnies, Clinic Access Support Network (CASN), Frontera Fund, Jane’s Due Process, Lilith Fund, TEA Fund, and the West Fund.