Study: Georgia maternal death rate could worsen with further abortion restrictions

The exterior of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. (Maura Friedman/WABE)

Banning abortion could increase Georgia’s maternal-death rate more dramatically than previously thought, according to a new data analysis out since the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Women’s health experts warned long before the Roe ruling that outlawing abortion would worsen maternal health outcomes. Now, researchers at the University of Colorado have forecast what these dangers would like under a hypothetical total nationwide abortion ban.

Using recently released data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they estimate that in the years following an abortion ban, maternal deaths would increase by 24% overall.

That number would be higher in Georgia and other states with already high rates of maternal mortality, according to the study, with researchers estimating that maternal deaths would jump by 29%.

Anti-abortion advocates in Georgia deny that limits to abortion access pose a risk to maternal health.

The Colorado study authors call for increased access to reproductive care and other services to make pregnancy and delivery safer — especially for Black people, who continue to suffer the highest maternal mortality rates.

“There is a robust network of Black-led research demonstrating how we can better support Black pregnant people who are at two to three times greater risk of dying because they’re pregnant compared to other groups,” said Amanda Stevenson, assistant professor of sociology at CU Boulder and lead author of the study. 

Following the leak of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion hinting the court would overturn Roe, a coalition that includes medical professionals and medical associations, including the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College of Nurse Midwives and others released a letter in favor of preserving abortion access.

“Combined with higher maternal mortality rates and worse health outcomes, denying access to abortions only increases health risks and disparities for already disadvantaged people: Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and Indigenous women have pregnancy-related mortality rates twice as high as white women,” the letter reads.

Read the full letter at the Committee to Protect Health Care website.

In an effort to combat maternal mortality, state lawmakers passed a law signed last session by Gov. Brian Kemp extending postpartum Medicaid coverage to a year following delivery. The law took effect July 1, 2022.

Georgia remains among the dozen states that have not fully expanded Medicaid health insurance coverage.