Abortion restrictions raise concerns about maternal mortality risk, particularly for Black women

July 22, 2022—Deaths during and after childbirth are considerably higher in the U.S. than in other high-income countries, particularly for Black women. Determining the cause of this disparity is “one of the biggest challenges of public health,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Henning Tiemeier said in a July 3, 2022, Face the Nation interview. Tiemeier, Sumner and Esther Feldberg Professor of Maternal and Child Health and head of the School’s Maternal Health Task Force, said that some of the factors seem to be poverty, discrimination, and poor care.

Given that nearly 40% of abortion patients are Black women, concerns have been raised that new restrictions on the procedure will result in more deaths in that group. Tiemeier said that it was too early to predict the number of additional maternal deaths that may result from the new laws.

Further adding to the risk for low-income people, some states that have enacted strict new abortion laws previously rejected funding to expand Medicaid eligibility postpartum from two months to one year. Expanding postpartum coverage is important for reducing maternal deaths, Tiemeier said, as are paid family leave policies for new mothers.

Watch the Face the Nation interview: Racial disparity in maternal mortality rate “one of the biggest challenges of public health,” Harvard expert says