Evaluating policymakers’ priorities: A study of women’s and children’s health and well-being against abortion restrictions in the United States

Since abortion was legalized in the United States in 1973, states have created hundreds of laws limiting whether, when, and under what circumstances an individual may obtain an abortion. Abortion restrictions have been passing at an alarming rate, with nearly 60 laws enacted in 2019 alone. Anti-choice policymakers claim these laws are necessary to protect the health and well-being of women, their pregnancies, and their children. In 2014, Ibis Reproductive Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights embarked on a partnership to evaluate these claims.

The findings from this work are intended to redirect policymakers’ efforts away from limiting abortion access and toward investing in reproductive health needs—both implementing policies that support it and abolishing those that restrict anyone’s power to exercise their human right to live a pleasurable, safe, and healthy sexual and reproductive life. Additionally, with the online tool, we equip people with resources and information about restrictive and supportive laws in their states and across the country, so they can hold policymakers to account and transform people’s reproductive lives for the better.

We evaluated the number of supportive health policies that aid pregnant women, promote children’s health, education, and safety, and support family financial health, in comparison to abortion restrictions that target when, where, and how abortion can be provided and covered. Each state was given two scores—one for the number of abortion restrictions (0-18) and one for the number of supportive policies (0-25). We included supportive policies that have been shown to improve health and well-being. From our analyses, we found that states with the most abortion restrictions tend to have fewer supportive policies in place to promote the health and well-being of women, children, and families. Further, while many states have enacted all or nearly all abortion restrictions in the analyses, not one state enacted all of the supportive policies.

Results were initially published in national and state-specific reports in 2014 and 2017. Updated data from these reports is now available in an interactive online tool: Evaluating Priorities. The online tool presents findings in an interactive map that compares scores for abortion restrictions and supportive policies from state to state. Users can also view and download state cards, which include details on a state’s abortion restrictions and supportive policies, along with a summary of how the state ranks in these areas.


Briefs and Reports (20)

Other Resources (3)