Tuesday, April 9

Guest column: Anti-abortion advocates aren’t prepared for a post-Roe Louisiana | Opinion

The leaked US Supreme Court draft decision on Dobbs v. Jackson is no surprise to those who have been fighting for reproductive rights and health in Louisiana. Advocates have been working tirelessly to stave off this outcome for decades.

The draft decision is also no surprise to those working to eliminate the right to abortion in this state, as evidenced by Louisiana’s trigger law to ban abortion in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned and his amendment stating that the Louisiana Constitution does not secure the right to abortion.

While these activists have been preparing for the moment when the constitutional right to abortion is struck down by pushing anti-abortion legislation at the state level, they have failed to prepare for the dire outcomes of denying people the abortions they will continue to seek. And for this reason, they have done us all a great disservice and unmasked their true motivations, which have nothing to do with the health of women, children and families.

Assuming Roe v. Wade is indeed overturned when the court releases its decision this summer, abortion will be banned in Louisiana in the vast majority, if not all cases, despite the fact that many Louisianans support abortion in at least some cases. Residents will need to seek abortion care in the nearest states that offer it, which will likely be at least 200 miles away. Low-income and otherwise marginalized Louisianans will be unable to make this journey due to a lack of funds, child care, time off work and other barriers. Some of them will resort to extra-legal means of ending their pregnancies, with varying levels of safety and risk of criminalization.

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A number of factors seemingly unrelated to abortion regulation will make this problem worse. The same Louisiana legislators who voted for these anti-abortion measures also refuse to pass laws that would improve young people’s knowledge of their bodies and reproductive processes via comprehensive sex education, despite widespread support for sex ed among Louisiana parents. They refuse to allow for the collection of sexual risk behavior data that would facilitate better health promotion interventions to reduce unintended pregnancy and rates of sexually transmitted infections (which are also embarrassingly high in the state). They refuse to raise the minimum wage and pass other anti-poverty measures, which would help someone forced to carry a(nother) pregnancy to term afford the associated expenses needed to support a nurturing environment for a newborn to thrive, and to keep them and their families healthy.

We know that over half of the people who receive abortions are women with children. Studies show that people who are denied the abortions they seek are more likely to experience poverty, lower credit scores, financial debt, eviction, intimate partner violence and mental and physical health complications. One study showed that women who are denied abortions report higher levels of preeclampsia and postpartum hemorrhage than women who received an abortion but go on to give birth later in life. These are both severe complications that can have long-term health effects or result in death. Louisiana already has unconscionably high rates of maternal and infant mortality. Research shows that policies that restrict or outright ban abortion are linked to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.

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The negative effects of being denied an abortion also have intergenerational ramifications. Children that women already have are more likely to experience developmental issues when their mother is denied an abortion and children that are born when women are denied an abortion are more likely to live in poverty. Being denied an abortion can also negatively affect maternal bonding with the child. In 2021, Louisiana ranked 48th in child well-being. Banning abortion in the state will surely exacerbate this issue by forcing people to grow their families when they know their children will suffer for doing so. Meanwhile, over 300,000 women of reproductive age in Louisiana are in need of contraceptive access.

Anti-abortion advocates may have worked hard to bring about the day that Roe v. Wade is overturned, but they have failed dramatically at preparing for its consequences. And the entire state of Louisiana will suffer as a result.

Clare Daniel is an administrative associate professor at the Newcomb Institute at Tulane University.


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