Senator Smith, Colleagues Release New Report Detailing Devastating Harms Posed by State Abortion Bans

Washington D.C. [11.01.22] – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), released a new report detailing the devastating consequences of Republican-led state abortion bans and restrictions.The 23-page report – based on information provided by leading health care providers – reveals the effects of these radical laws on women’s access to health care as described by health care organizations representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and hospitals. The report also shows the disastrous impact Republicans’ proposed national abortion ban would have on women’s health and the entire health care system.

“This report confirms exactly what I feared: Republicans’ crusade against women’s reproductive freedoms has created national chaos that is a mortal threat to women’s health,” said Senator Smith. “I am determined to push back against these dangerous Republican efforts, and I will not stop organizing and fighting until women’s freedoms can be exercised equally in all parts of this country.”

“In the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, this report reveals that the abortion bans and extreme restrictions imposed by Republican politicians have devastating health consequences and threaten women’s lives,” said Senator Warren. “According to leading health care organizations representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and hospitals, the health consequences of criminalizing abortion are catastrophic for women – and the Republicans’ proposed national abortion ban would only exacerbate this crisis.” 

“This report lays bare the very real, barbaric consequences of Republicans’ state-by-state efforts to control women and strip them of their basic rights to decide what happens to their own bodies,” saidSenator Duckworth. “Let’s be perfectly clear: bans on abortion don’t actually stop abortion from happening. It just means women will seek out more dangerous, less safe paths to get the care they need when they need it. No one should have to cross state lines to be treated as an equal citizen – and that’s why Democrats will never let up our work to enshrine full reproductive rights into law.”

“This report details the devastating consequences of state-level abortion bans and the potential impact of the GOP’s push to outlaw abortion nationwide,” said Senator Hirono. “The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision has sowed chaos and confusion even in states like Hawaii where abortion remains legal, endangering the health and safety of millions and disproportionately impacting communities of color. As MAGA Republicans work to advance a national abortion ban, we’ll continue fighting to defend reproductive freedom and codify abortion access nationwide.”

The report, titled Post-Roe Abortion Bans Threaten Women’s Lives: Health Care Providers Speak Out on the Devastating Harm Posed by Abortion Bans and Restrictions, is the culmination of a months-long investigation by the Senators into the effects of abortion bans and restrictions on women’s access to health care in the aftermath of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. The report sought input from five leading health care organizations: the American Medical Association (AMA), Physicians for Reproductive Health (PRH), National Nurses United (NNU), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA), about how radical state abortion bans and Senate Republicans’ proposal to ban abortion nationwide would impact women’s access to pregnancy care, reproductive care, and even non-reproductive health care. 

The key findings of the report include: 

  1. State-imposed restrictions on abortion care affect all women seeking reproductive health care, even in states where abortion remains legal.
    • AMA wrote that “State-imposed restrictions on abortion care have certainly resulted in diminished access to pregnancy care, reproductive care, and other health care, as well as delays in such care.”
    • NNU wrote that “In states where abortion is legal and protected, nurses are beginning to see increased patient loads because of patients traveling to these states to receive the reproductive health care they need. This will put additional strain on nurses who are already chronically understaffed at hospitals across the country.”
  2. State abortion bans have created mortal threats to women suffering from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications.
    • The United States is already in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis, with the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy countries, and with more than 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths already being preventable. Abortion bans will make this crisis even worse, resulting in preventable pregnant women’s deaths.
    • PRH wrote that “Efforts to ban abortion entirely will continue to exacerbate this country’s maternal health crises. Data shows that efforts to ban abortion would lead to a 24 percent increase in maternal mortality overall.”
  3. State-Imposed Restrictions on Abortion Care Threaten Health Care Providers and Interfere with the Doctor-Patient Relationship.
    • All five organizations described how conflicting, vague, and restrictive state laws place providers in impossible situations of trying to meet their ethical duties to put patient health and well-being first while attempting to comply with complex state laws that interfere in the practice of medicine and jeopardize the health of patients.
    • AHA wrote that the “threat of criminal sanctions will interfere with the exercise of health care providers’ expert judgment in the provision of medically necessary care. And this sort of chilling effect is particularly troubling in the emergency room context, where providers must make life-or-death decisions in the heat of the moment— and where delay or restraint can make all the difference.”
  4. State-Imposed Restrictions on Abortion Care Disproportionately Impact Communities of Color, Rural Communities, and Low-Income Communities.
    • All five organizations described their fears that abortion bans will exacerbate existing health inequities.16 CDC data already show that Black and Indigenous women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and state-level abortion bans will make these disparities even worse.
  5. State-Imposed Restrictions on Abortion Care Result in Broader Restrictions on Medical Care and Medical Education.
    • The consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe extend beyond reproductive health care and are already impacting patients with autoimmune diseases, patients living in chronic pain, and many others, putting additional burdens on already stressed health care systems.
    • APhA wrote that “Indirectly, state-imposed restrictions on abortion care have impacted pregnancy care, reproductive care, and other forms of health care. Many of these issues have been the result of vaguely worded state policies that could be interpreted as being more broadly applied to patients even if they are not receiving care related to an abortion.”
  6. Republicans’ Proposed National Abortion Ban Would Have Devastating Impact on Women’s Health and the Entire Health Care System.
    • PRH wrote that “Efforts to ban abortion across the nation will continue to cause devastating harm to people and continue to exacerbate this country’s maternal health crises. Data shows that current efforts to ban abortion would lead to a 24 percent increase in maternal mortality overall. The consequences would be even more dire for Black women. It is projected that abortion bans are estimated to lead to a 39 percent increase in maternal mortality for Black women and birthing people. Under a federal ban the outcomes for pregnant people and people giving birth would be far worse.”

As abortion rights are under attack by extremist Supreme Court, right-wing state legislatures, and Congressional Republicans, Senator Smith has called on the government to use every tool to protect access to health care and reproductive freedom.

This summer, Senators Smith, Warren and Murray led a group of their Democratic colleagues to introduce the Expanding Access to Family Planning Act, a bill to protect access to critical reproductive health care services—like birth control, cancer screenings, and more—by providing a consistent and strong source of funding for the Title X Family Planning Program. Following the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Senators Smith and Warren wrote an op-ed in the New York Times laying out the next steps in the fight to protect the right to an abortion, including calling for the declaration of a public health emergency. Additionally, Smith introduced the Protecting Access to Medication Abortion Act this summer to defend access to medication abortion. The bill would protect current FDA guidelines so that women can always access medication abortion through telehealth and certified pharmacies, including mail-order pharmacies.