Racial/ethnic and educational inequities in restrictive abortion policy variation and adverse birth outcomes in the United States

Redd, Sara K.; Rice, Whitney S.; Aswani, Monica S.; Blake, Sarah; Julian, Zoë; Sen, Bisakha; Wingate, Martha; Hall, Kelli S.

To examine racial/ethnic and educational inequities in the relationship between state-level restrictive abortion policies and adverse birth outcomes from 2005 to 2015 in the United States.

Using a state-level abortion restrictiveness index comprised of 18 restrictive abortion policies, we conducted a retrospective longitudinal analysis examining whether race/ethnicity and education level moderated the relationship between the restrictiveness index and individual-level probabilities of preterm birth (PTB) and low birthweight (LBW). Data were obtained from the 2005–2015 National Center for Health Statistics Period Linked Live Birth-Infant Death Files and analyzed with linear probability models adjusted for individual- and state-level characteristics and state and year fixed-effects.

Among 2,250,000 live births, 269,253 (12.0%) were PTBs and 182,960 (8.1%) were LBW. On average, states had approximately seven restrictive abortion policies enacted from 2005 to 2015. Black individuals experienced increased probability of PTB with additional exposure to restrictive abortion policies compared to non-Black individuals. Similarly, those with less than a college degree experienced increased probability of LBW with additional exposure to restrictive abortion policies compared to college graduates. For all analyses, inequities worsened as state environments grew increasingly restrictive.

Findings demonstrate that Black individuals at all educational levels and those with fewer years of education disproportionately experienced adverse birth outcomes associated with restrictive abortion policies. Restrictive abortion policies may compound existing racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and intersecting racial/ethnic and socioeconomic perinatal and infant health inequities.

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BMC Health Services Research

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Published Here
September 22, 2023


Abortion, Health policy, Health services research, Reproductive health services, Adverse birth outcomes, US state laws, Race/ethnicity, Education, Health disparities, Health inequities