Image via Shutterstock.
Image via Shutterstock.

Babies born in states that make it hard to get an abortion are more likely to have lower birth weights, which can lead to long term health challenges.

Babies born in states without restrictive reproductive health laws are more likely to be healthy than babies born in states where it is difficult to get an abortion, according to a new study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Women living in states with the least restrictive reproductive rights have a 7% lower chance of having a baby with a low birth rate, which can lead to immediate health problems for newborns  like increased risk of infection, and longer-term problems, such as delayed motor skills. The risk of having a low-birth weight baby was more pronounced among Black women, with the risk of having a low-birth weight baby 8% lower in states with access to full reproductive healthcare.

The study was published on the second day of hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who in the past has been vocally opposed to abortion rights. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, asked Barrett where she stood on Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that helped make abortion legal in the United States.

“I think my answer is the same because that’s a case that is litigated and its contours could come up again, And in fact they do come up. They came up last term before the court,” Barrett said after being pressed by Feinstein three times to clarify her position.

“I know why it would be comforting to you to have an answer,” she added, “but I can’t express views on cases or pre-commit to approaching a case in any particular way.”

While Republicans wanting an anti-choice judge isn’t a surprise, many Supreme Court justice nominees have used the same line Barrett has to dodge the question of what they would do if deciding on Roe. But studies like this one make it harder to argue that this anti-choice position outright protects women and children.

Despite Republicans dedication to restricting abortion access, a Marist poll from 2019 found America is growing more pro-choice, with a majority of those surveyed opposed to the strictest abortion laws, such as limiting access after a heartbeat is detected. 

The lead investigator in the study, Dr. May Sudhinaraset, said the data they collected provides “evidence that reproductive rights policies play a critical role in advancing maternal and child health equity.”

Sudhinaraset also noted the study is consistent with reports the show women of color suffer more in America’s healthcare system. A 2019 study found that Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die giving birth than white women. 

“Addressing the adverse consequences of structural racism requires examination of the historical and present-day policies that negatively affect women of color,” Sudhinaraset said. “Future studies should assess specific evidence-based policies, particularly highlighting women’s lived experiences of policy exclusion or inclusion, and the effects on women and newborn health. Important policy levers can and should be implemented to improve women’s reproductive health overall, including increasing abortion access and mandatory sex education in schools.”