The leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft decision on Dobbs v. Jackson is no surprise to those who have fought for reproductive rights and health in Louisiana. Defenders have worked tirelessly to avoid this outcome for decades.
The proposed ruling also comes as no surprise to those working to eliminate abortion rights in that state, as evidenced by Louisiana’s triggering law to ban abortion in case Roe v. Wade would be struck down and his amendment declaring that the Louisiana Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion.
While these activists have prepared for the time when the constitutional right to abortion will be overturned by pushing anti-abortion legislation at the state level, they have failed to prepare for the disastrous consequences of denying people the abortions they will continue to seek. And for that reason, they have done us all a terrible disservice and unmasked their true motives, which have nothing to do with the health of women, children and families.
Assuming Roe v. Wade is effectively overturned when the court issues its decision this summer, abortion will be banned in Louisiana in the vast majority, if not all cases, despite the fact that many Louisianans support abortion in at least some cases. Residents will need to seek abortion care in the nearest states that offer it, which will likely be at least 200 miles away. Low-income and otherwise marginalized Louisianans will not be able to make this trip due to a lack of funds, child care, work stoppages and other barriers. Some of them will resort to extra-legal means to terminate their pregnancy, with different levels of security and risk of criminalization.
A number of factors seemingly unrelated to abortion regulation will compound this problem. The same Louisiana lawmakers who voted for these anti-abortion measures are also refusing to pass laws that would improve young people’s knowledge of their bodies and reproductive processes through comprehensive sex education, despite widespread support for sex education at parents in Louisiana. They refuse to allow the collection of data on risky sexual behaviors that would facilitate better health promotion interventions to reduce unwanted pregnancies and rates of sexually transmitted infections (which are also extremely high in the state). They refuse to raise the minimum wage and adopt other anti-poverty measures, which would help a person forced to carry (another) pregnancy to term to pay for the associated expenses necessary to support an environment conducive to the flourishing of women. a newborn, and to keep them and their families healthy.
We know that more than half of people who have abortions are women with children. Studies show that people who are denied the abortions they seek are more likely to experience poverty, lower credit scores, financial debt, evictions, intimate partner violence, and mental and physical health complications. A study has shown that women who are denied abortion report higher levels of preeclampsia and postpartum hemorrhage than women who have had an abortion but give birth later in life. These are two serious complications that can have long-term health effects or lead to death. Louisiana already has abnormally high rates of maternal and infant mortality. Research shows that policies that restrict or prohibit abortion outright are linked to higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.
The negative effects of being denied an abortion have also intergenerational ramifications. Children that women already have are more likely to have developmental problems when their mother is denied an abortion, and children born when women are denied an abortion are more likely to live in poverty. Being denied an abortion can also negatively affect the maternal bond with the child. In 2021, Louisiana ranked 48th in child well-being. Banning abortion in the state will surely make this problem worse by forcing people to expand their families when they know their children will suffer. Meanwhile, more 300,000 women of childbearing age in Louisiana need access to contraception.
Anti-abortion advocates may have worked hard to get Roe v. Wade is overthrown, but they dramatically fail to prepare for its consequences. And the whole state of Louisiana will suffer.
Clare Daniel is an Associate Professor of Administration at Tulane University’s Newcomb Institute.