How Restrictive Reproductive Health Policies Can Impact Babies' Health

Forty-seven years ago, the Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade decreed that it would be legal for women in all 50 states to terminate unwanted pregnancies (via Justia). To this day, the parameters under which each state interprets this ruling, as well as how it sets its other policies surrounding reproductive health, tend to vary pretty widely based on local political views and economy. So how do the states' different policies affect the women involved, and how do they impact the babies who do come to term?

According to a study recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a survey of births in all of the states plus the District of Columbia found that not only did women receive better health care in the states classified as less restrictive regarding reproductive healthcare access, but that those women gave birth to healthier babies who were likely to be at a lower risk of complications such as breathing difficulties and infection.

Why less-restrictive states produce healthier babies

The study assessed each state's reproductive health policies on criteria including mandatory waiting periods for abortion services, expanded eligibility for Medicaid family planning services, and the number of abortion providers available. The women residing in the least restrictive states (a CNN infographic shows these to be California, Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington) had 7 percent fewer babies born at a low birth weight. The number was even higher (8 percent) for African-American women.

So why are the less-restrictive states producing healthier babies? May Sudhinaraset, an associate professor at UCLA's School of Public Health, told CNN, "Reproductive rights policies can inhibit women from achieving their full health potential, and that in turn can cause chronic stress that results in worse birth outcomes." She went on to say, "To really address issues of health inequity, we need to enact policies for women to be able to make decisions for their own bodies, and their lives and their children, if they want to have them."