Recent research, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, has found that state reproductive rights policies have the ability to affect the health of babies born within the United States. The research concluded that women in states with less restrictive reproductive policies delivered “healthier babies” in terms of baby weight. It found that these women demonstrated a smaller risk of baby low birth weight than those of their counterparts in states with more reproductive health policy restrictions.
The restrictiveness of states’ reproductive policies was evaluated depending on factors including: mandatory abortion waiting periods, eligibility for Medicaid family planning and more. States were divided and categorized into groups of having the most, least, or moderately restrictive policies. Amongst these categories, 20 states had the most restrictive policies, 16 states the least restrictive policies (including Washington D.C.) and 15 states had moderately restrictive reproductive policies. Following this comparison, a 7% lower low birth weight risk was observed on average for women in the least restrictive states, in comparison to those that were in the most restrictive states. Additionally, this rate increased to an 8% lower risk for low birth weight amongst black women living in one of the least restrictive states, in comparison to their counterparts living in a most restrictive state.
Additionally, the study found that infant birth weights of black women born outside the United States were less impacted by the restrictiveness of their state’s reproductive health policies than those who were born within the U.S. This difference is believed to be a result of the effects of structural racism and its impact upon access to reproductive health resources for women and communities of color. These effects are also manifested in forms such as social segregation, intergenerational trauma, and a lack of culturally competent care in healthcare – all of these factors contribute to poorer health outcomes for communities of color. While the findings of this research are relatively new, they stand to represent the effect of more and less restrictive reproductive health policies upon child health and to show the continued relevance of social determinants of health.