How abortion bans are influencing women’s decisions to get pregnant: 'I will not risk putting myself through that'
There's a lot happening in the abortion sphere right now in the U.S., and it can be tough to keep up. At the moment, legal access to mifepristone, one of the two pills used in a medication abortion, hangs in the balance and will likely be decided by the Supreme Court. At the same time, laws are being passed across the country that severely restrict or ban access to abortion in various states.
Currently, abortion is banned in 13 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute, many without exceptions for rape or incest.
Experts are concerned about the impact this will have on women of reproductive age. "There are numerous things that can happen if you're not able to access abortion care you need," Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, tells Yahoo Life. "The first is that you're forced to continue a pregnancy, that can have significant health risks for you." Studies have found that, if abortion is banned across the U.S., the maternal death rate — which is already high for a Western country — would increase by 24%.
Being forced to have a child also has "clear negative impacts on financial stability," Miller says. That can include difficulty continuing school or continuing to work and making enough income for a growing family. "The greatest impact is on people who are already marginalized," she says.
However, the potential harm can also extend to women who have a wanted pregnancy, Dr. Rachel Neal, an ob-gyn practicing in Georgia and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Yahoo Life. "These laws don't allow physicians to use the best and most up-to-date evidence to treat their patients," she says. "They have to cater to laws that are not written with patients' best interests in mind."
In Georgia, for example, Neal says doctors have to "wait until a person's life is in danger" to intervene if they have a pregnancy complication, such as an premature rupture of membranes (or PROM), before their pregnancy is viable. "That is not how we should practice medicine," she says. "These patients don't want to test the limits of how sick they can get. People don't want to know how close you can get to death before they can be helped — they just want to be helped."
Some women in these states are worried — and they're speaking up. Here's what they shared with Yahoo Life.
'I chose to have a non-hormonal IUD inserted, even though my husband had a vasectomy.'
One Texas resident, Laura Lape, is a 35-year-old mom of three young children. Texas law prohibits abortion at any stage of pregnancy, with exceptions for when the life of the mother is in danger. Lape has a history of miscarriage and is concerned about her ability to get proper care if she were to encounter complications in another pregnancy.
"Because of my history of miscarriage, I chose to have a non-hormonal IUD inserted, even though my husband had a vasectomy," she tells Yahoo Life. "I had made this decision the day after the ban, even though I didn't want to. My doctor supported me on this decision and the concerns regarding miscarriage care."
Lape says that she's concerned that having a high-risk pregnancy or miscarriage in Texas "would risk my life." She continues, "Supporting this ban will kill people. This legislation will kill otherwise healthy women and leave children without mothers. To support it is the antithesis of being 'pro-life' and 'pro-family.'"
'I am terrified of the many ways in which things could potentially go wrong were I to try to conceive in Georgia again.'
Katy Huie Harrison, founder and CEO of Undefining Motherhood, lives in Georgia, where abortions are banned after six weeks, when many women don't yet realize they are pregnant. "I endured four miscarriages, two of which required medical intervention that have become less clear-cut and more uncertain since this bill was passed," she tells Yahoo Life. "I have also had two pregnancies I carried to term that both ended up being high-risk — one of which easily could have become life-threatening, due to preeclampsia."
Harrison's youngest child is 14 months old, and she says she "would not consider trying to conceive again in the current environment in Georgia, where my reproductive body has become so politicized."
Harrison said she's needed surgical intervention for a miscarriage and required methotrexate, a medication that's been targeted by some abortion bans, for an ectopic pregnancy. "There are many moms in my Undefining Motherhood community who have had to either leave their state to terminate for medical reasons, or who have had to use mifepristone to help complete a loss," she says. "I am terrified of the many ways in which things could potentially go wrong were I to try to conceive in Georgia again. I will not risk putting myself through that."
'I now want to leave Texas.'
Arti, a Texas resident who asked that her last name not be shared for privacy reasons, is 39 and considering having children. "I now want to leave Texas," she tells Yahoo Life. "I have purposely sought opportunities outside of Texas and hope to move soon."
Arti says her state's abortion ban is the reason. "I am deeply concerned about the ban," she says. "While it appears that Texas indicates if a woman's life is at risk, the ban will not be applicable, the reality does not align with this intent." Arti points to the case of a woman in Texas who went into labor just four months into her pregnancy and almost died from sepsis, a life-threatening complication of an infection, because doctors weren't able to give her a medically necessary abortion earlier on.
"Because there is such uncertainty, doctors may wait until things get very obviously bad to provide services — subjecting women to issues like sepsis and actual death," Arti says. "With this ban, there is uncertainty, lack of clarity and fear."
Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life's newsletter. Sign up here.