Can we make maternal death, infant mortality, and domestic violence pro-life causes?

Texas is considering legislation that would allow the death penalty for women who undergo abortions. Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Mississippi, Lousiana, Florida, West Virginia, Illinois, Minnesota, Maryland, and Kentucky h ave all passed or are considering severe restrictions on the procedure.

What do they have in common?

Overwhelmingly, states with greater restrictions on abortion also have worse rates of infant mortality. 

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Above, a map from the CDC showing data on infant mortality in 2016. The darker blue the state, the higher the infant mortality rate. 

And maternal death.

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Oh, and they also have higher teen pregnancy rates.

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Above, a map from the CDC showing teen pregnancy rates by state. The darker red the state, the higher the teen pregnancy rate. 

And higher STD rates.

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Above, a map showing STD rates by state. 

And higher rates of unwed motherhood.

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And higher divorce rates.

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And rates of domestic violence.

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On all kinds of measures, progressive states produce better outcomes for people. With very few exceptions (Utah), states, with more liberal politics achieve the ends that social conservatives say they want: fewer teen pregnancies, less teen sex, better marriages.

If we know what produces better outcomes for people–including lowered abortion rates–then why don’t conservative state lawmakers choose those policies?

I think it’s fair to trust that when people choose actions with predictable outcomes, they are  making those choices because they want those outcomes. When conservative lawmakers choose policies that result in harm to women and children, they are doing this because they want to harm women and children.

If you are an abortion rights advocate, that probably feels like an obvious statement, as you see evidence of a “war on women” in a new state legislature every day.

But I want to turn the conversation away from abortion for a moment, because these issues–domestic violence, divorce, maternal death, etc.–, while they intersect with abortion, aren’t only about abortion. And I’m hopeful that if people who consider themselves pro-life consider the patterns in states with anti-abortion policies, they will shift their energy away from curtailing abortion rights and toward doing the work that will actually end abortion. That work is also work that reduces unwanted pregnancies, STI and STD rates, divorce rates, and family violence rates. If pro-lifers can be convinced to buy into these causes as pro-life causes, there may be actual improvement in lives of people living in conservative states.




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