Study Finds Banning Abortions in the United States Would Lead to a 21% Increase in Pregnancy-Related Deaths

Joe Duncan

A study from Duke University unearths some alarming numbers.
A pregnant woman stands before an American flag. Licensed from Adobe Stock.Adobe Stock

Late last night, a leak from the United States Supreme Court showed that the court intends to repeal Roe Vs. Wade and Planned Parenthood Vs. Casey, two landmark Supreme Court decisions that have granted constitutional protection to those who want to have an abortion.

Today, Chief Justice John Roberts didn't deny the authenticity of the leak when he spoke about it. Instead, he promised an investigation into the matter, which lets us know the leak is legit.

Since then, the Internet has erupted into a firestorm of confusion, anger, rage, joy, sorrow, and more, as people from all over process the leak and its contents. While the laws haven't been repealed yet, which is what the leak showed the Supreme Court intends to do sometime in June, people are bracing for an America without abortion rights.

President Biden spoke and called the leaked Supreme Court draft a "radical decision" and said that he believes that access to abortion is a fundamental right.

Many have speculated that abortion rights would default to the individual States in America with many states choosing to ban abortion, while others would choose to keep it as a legal practice.

NBC News posted a map of the twenty-three states who have "trigger laws" that are waiting for the ruling to go through so they can ban abortion immediately.

The political moment is tense and emotional on all sides.

But outside of politics, in the realms of science and history, researchers have been exploring everything there is to know about pregnancy and abortion and some facts about the potential bans are quite startling.

The Science of Parenthood

A recent study from late 2021, by Amanda Jean Stevenson and published by Duke University, estimated that pregnancy-related deaths would increase by 21% if abortion were banned in the United States. Pregnancy-related deaths occur when women die because of pregnancy or during childbirth. While this amounts to only 49 deaths in the first year, in terms of whole numbers, that is expected to inflate to 140 deaths per year in subsequent years after the initial year.

The thing about these deaths that some people find egregious is the fact that they would be preventable should they end up occurring due to abortion being banned.

University of Chicago Historian Kathleen Belew said that even though abortion may become illegal, the rate of abortions per capita likely won't change. Historically, whether abortion is illegal or legal doesn't make a difference in how many there are.

This is confirmed by studies from the Guttmacher institute that have shown that whether abortion is legal or illegal, the rate remains about the same.

An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg attaches itself somewhere inside a woman’s body other than the uterus. This often happens in the fallopian tube and it can lead to cases of severe bleeding and death. 

One in four women will experience ectopic pregnancy in their lifetimes. Up to 20% of symptomatic pregnancies end up being ectopic pregnancies, accounting for 1–2% of all pregnancies. That’s just one condition.

It's just the tip of the iceberg.

While the risks to the mother’s life are clear in these cases, what about the fetus? For ages, we believed that 20% of all pregnancies are non-viable, meaning the fetus is not born alive.

But detailed research from 2018 found that the number is greater than that, affecting about one in four women — 25% of all pregnancies are babies who can’t possibly be born…and these are only the pregnancies we know about, the women who have symptoms and need to be treated by a healthcare professional. 

This isn’t including the spontaneous miscarriages that happen early on that women don’t know about. When you factor those in, the majority of pregnancies are non-viable — more than half.

A prior study found that 53.2% of all pregnancies carry abnormalities in their number of chromosomes (called aneuploidy), and these abnormalities are responsible for most non-viable pregnancies. So, when you exclude all other factors, more than half of pregnancies carry chromosomal abnormalities that lead to the death of fetuses or small children.

In other words, if the majority of pregnancies are non-viable, women will be forced to carry them even though they will never survive.

The main takeaway from all of this is the fact that abortion isn't just a moral decision. Many other factors are involved, and those factors have to do with human health.

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