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Mothers more than twice as likely to die during pregnancy in states that ban abortion

Crystal Graham
abortion health sign protest rights women
(© Amparo Garcia – stock.adobe.com)

According to a new analysis released by the Gender Equity Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization dedicated to advancing gender equity in the U.S., mothers are more than twice as likely to die while pregnant or giving birth if they live in states that ban abortion.

“The State of Reproductive Health in the United States: The End of Roe and the Perilous Road Ahead for Women in the Dobbs Era” analyzed reproductive health and wellbeing across the United States, comparing states based on their support for access to abortion and reproductive care.

“Women and babies who live in states that support reproductive freedom have far better health outcomes. Fifteen states have already banned abortion and more are expected to do so in this post-Roe era – this will harm women beyond the denial of abortion,” said Chantel Johnson, senior director of external affairs at GEPI. “We hope this report helps raise the alarm about the harrowing realities abortion bans and the denial of reproductive and sexual healthcare has on people’s lives.”

The results are based on key indicators of reproductive and sexual health, including contraception access and use, teen births, maternal mortality, and newborn and child mortality.

Specifically, the report finds:

  • 6 in 10 women live in states that banned abortion or sharply limited reproductive freedom.
  • Mothers living in states that have banned abortion were up to 3x more likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth, or soon after giving birth.
  • Babies born in banned states were 30% more likely to die in their first month of life.
  • The teen birth rate was two times higher in banned states than in supportive states.
  • 7 in 10 Black women live in states that ban or restrict abortion care.
  • Black women were almost 3X as likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth, or right after giving birth as White women.
  • Black babies were more than 2x as likely to die in their first month of life as White babies.

“This report uncovers a sobering truth: Women and pregnant people living in states that ban abortion face dangerous and sometimes deadly outcomes at a much higher rate than their counterparts in states where abortion is legal. That’s because states hostile to abortion are, in fact, hostile to pregnant people. It’s just that simple and just that horrifying,” explained Mini Timmaraju, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “This is the beginning of the post-Roe world, and the only way to stop these worrying trends from continuing is to ensure everyone has access to the care they need—including abortion.”

Virginia regulations

Abortion is legal in Virginia through the second trimester. Thereafter, abortion is legal only if necessary to save the life of the mother.

Last summer, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, which returned to the states the power to regulate, even prohibit, abortion.

The state of Virginia restricts second-trimester abortions to licensed hospitals, with third-trimester abortions legal only to save the life or medical well-being of the mother.

Virginia law also requires women seeking abortions to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound of their fetus prior to the procedure.

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngin announced after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that he would seek to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Youngkin has said he supports exceptions for rape, incest and cases where the life of the mother is at risk.


Based on the trends evident in the last years of the Roe era, GEPI concludes that the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade will likely exacerbate already dangerous trends in states with highly restrictive abortion laws and bans.

For instance, Black and Native American women already face disproportionately higher maternal mortality rates nationwide; Latina women are more likely than other women to lack health insurance. As such, compounded health risks and dangers for Black, Latina, and Native American women who live in states hostile to reproductive freedom are especially high and stand to increase.

This report is the first in a series of annual reports on reproductive and sexual health in the United States.

“To assess the impact on women’s health and well-being post-Dobbs, it is critical that we track the data,” said Natalia Vega Varela, senior researcher at GEPI and lead author of the report. “This year’s study is designed to establish the baseline for that ongoing assessment. In short, it answers a critical question: Before the constitutional right to abortion was stripped away by the Supreme Court, what was the state of reproductive and sexual health in the U.S?.”

The full report is available online at https://thegepi.org/state-of-reproductive-health-US

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.