“I was standing there watching her hemorrhage out, waiting for permission to do the termination. It is a disgusting feeling. It is a sad feeling. And you’re sitting there literally watching her blood pressure going down while you’re waiting for permission,” the Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of South Florida told CNN. “It’s just sad to now know if [Roe] really is overturned, that that will be happening all over across the country where [terminating a pregnancy] won’t even be a possibility for a lot of states.”
“[People] may seek unsafe ways of terminating a pregnancy and could have harmful consequences,” said Whitney Rice, the director of the Center for Reproductive Health Research in the Southeast at Emory University. “You also have people who may sort of be forced to continue pregnancies to term and could have a risk of infant health outcomes that include low birth weight, preterm birth, or may have a risk of maternal mortality.”
Maternal mortality risks are felt unequally
Black people are three times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than non-Hispanic White and Hispanic people, according to the CDC. With reduced access to abortion and other forms of reproductive healthcare, experts worry that these rates could rise in a post-Roe landscape.
“[Marginalized groups] really face barriers in every sense of the way,” said Dr. Louis. “They face barriers in terms of getting care in a timely fashion, barriers in being able to see a health care provider, and then barriers to getting the appropriate treatment. And that’s even if they’re offered appropriate treatment.”
Access to maternal care is harder to come by in states likely to ban abortion
Access to maternal care is also worse in the 26 states that the Guttmacher Institute expects will be certain or likely to ban abortion. More than half of all counties in these states are classified as having low access to maternal care or are maternity-care deserts, according to a CNN analysis of data from the March of Dimes, compared to 39% of counties in states that are not likely to ban abortion if Roe is overturned.
“Those sorts of structural environments tend to go hand in hand,” Rice said. “States with highly restrictive abortion environments also generally have fewer policies supporting health and well being of pregnant people, as well as their children and their families.”
Legal abortions are low-risk and safe — but lack of access to the procedure puts women at risk
“I think we can say with certainty that those deaths could have been avoided had these people had access to the abortion care that they had sought,” Ralph added.
If Roe is overturned, Ralph and other experts have warned that the maternal mortality rate will likely continue to rise in the United States if pregnant people are unable to access the care they need.
“It’s a wake up call that we should stop being so complacent and that we need to look at more proactive strategies,” said Dr. Louis of the medical community’s role in providing safe access to abortion.