States with some of the strictest abortion laws in the country are also some of the most difficult places to have and raise a healthy child, especially for the poor, according to a federal data analysis by The Associated Press.
The results raise questions about the strength of the social security network as those states are willing to further restrict or even ban access to abortion following a long-awaited U.S. Supreme Court ruling later this year. The burden is likely to fall more heavily on those on low incomes, who are also the least able to seek an abortion in another state where the procedure is still widely available.
Mississippi has the highest proportion of children living in poverty and low birth weight babies, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control, the latest available. Texas has the highest rate of women not receiving prenatal care during its first trimester and ranks second worst for the proportion of children in poverty who are uninsured, according to the data.
The laws of both states are at the heart of the nationwide struggle for access to abortion. The Conservative majority in the Supreme Court has shown its willingness in a Mississippi case to destroy or defeat Roe against Wade.
Anti-abortion lawmakers there say they will further promote adoption and foster care programs if abortion is banned, as well as funding alternatives to abortion programs.
If Roe withdraws, 26 states are safe or likely to ban abortion quickly, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an expert group that supports abortion rights. Many of these states have been poorly ranked in the measurements that nonpartisan advocacy groups consider key to ensuring children have a healthy start.
The data analyzed by the AP illustrates the obstacles faced by pregnant women and their children in states with stricter abortion restrictions and how access to resources may lag behind 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 her first child was born because she could not afford daycare.
Arroyo found a job as a restaurant host, but did not offer insurance and her second child has a heart defect. He now has thousands of unpaid medical bills.
“I could never have imagined how difficult it would end up being,” he 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 children in poverty without insurance, more than 9%.
The AP analyzed figures from several federal government agencies into seven categories: metrics identified by various nonprofits and experts as essential in determining whether children get off to a good start.
In general, states that had passed abortion prevention 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 low birth weight babies. Texas, Indiana, and Mississippi had the highest percentage of women who did not receive prenatal care during their first trimester.
In response to the AP’s findings, many conservative state lawmakers said women can give birth to their newborns for adoption and said they would support increased funding for foster care programs. In Oklahoma, Republican Senate Speaker Pro Tem Greg Treat said he would work to raise child welfare workers’ salaries and state money to adopt adoptive parents.
“There will be a commitment, but it will not be a new commitment. It will be a continuous effort on our part, “he said.
Some democratically controlled states with more permissive abortion laws have also been misjudged in some categories.
New Mexico ranks third highest in the proportion of 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, in the proportion of women and children on food stamps.
These states are usually atypical. Overwhelmingly, the data show many more challenges for newborns, children, and their parents in states that restrict abortion.
Abortion restrictions and worrying economic data are not directly related, but finances are one of the main reasons women seek abortion, according to research by Diana Greene Foster, a professor of reproductive science at the University of California, San Francisco.
Her work found that children born to women who have been denied an abortion are more likely to live in a home where there is not enough money for basic living expenses.
Texas passed an unusual law last year that leaves the application of the six-week ban on abortion to civilians, a law that the Supreme Court has largely left in place.
Maleeha Aziz, organizer of the Texas Equal Access Fund, had an abortion when she was a 20-year-old college student after her birth control failed. He also experienced a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum, which causes extreme and persistent 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 will go through. “
In Texas, 20% of women do not receive prenatal care in their first trimester, according to pregnancy risk assessment data collected by the CDC in 2016, the most recent data available from that state. Lack of prenatal care increases the risk of the mother dying or giving birth to a low birth weight baby.
The enemies of Texas abortion also point to a program called Alternatives to Abortion. As with similar groups in other states, it funds pregnancy counseling, adoption services, and life skills, budgeting, and parenting classes.
“This network of social services is really critical in our minds to support pregnant women and expectant families now,” said John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life.
Most of these groups, commonly known as pregnancy centers in crisis, are not licensed to provide medical care.
Weak social programs in many states with harsh abortion laws
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