Abortion restrictions may cause more women to commit suicide, study finds
- Women in states with abortion limits had a six percent increased risk of suicide
- The researchers found that the highest risk was only in women of childbearing age.
- Their study reflected suicide data from 1973, the year of Roe v Wade, through 2016.
Restricting abortion may lead to more suicides, a new study suggests.
A team at the University of Pennsylvania found that women of reproductive age who lived in states where abortion restrictions were in place were more likely to die by suicide. The same was not observed for older women, implying that abortion restrictions played a role.
The right to abortion was protected by the federal government until the Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade ruling over the summer. Now, states have the right to restrict or allow the procedure at their own discretion.
Since the summer ruling, access to abortion has severely eroded and waiting and travel times have skyrocketed for many women.
Women of reproductive age in states with TRAP laws before the fall of Roe v Wade had a 5.8 percent higher suicide rate.
The above shows the estimated travel time to abortion clinics now that Roe v. Wade has been voided across the United States, with an increase of about 100 minutes on average. All 18 states featured have placed restrictions on abortion or have banned it altogether.
Dr. Ran Barzilay, a psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and an author of the study, said: “We found that this particular stressor, abortion restriction, affects women of a specific age in a specific cause of death, which is Suicide That’s the view from 10,000 feet.
The results were published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry.
They studied suicide rates in states with Specific Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, which place broad restrictions on abortion providers and their ability to practice.
The researchers conducted what is known as difference-in-differences analysis using state-level data from 1974 to 2016 covering the entire population of adult women during that time.
Every time a state enforced a law related to reproductive care, it incorporated that information into three indices that measure access to reproductive care.
They looked at suicide rates among women of reproductive age before and after the TRAP laws went into effect, comparing those numbers to broader suicide trends and to rates in places without such restrictions.
Before repealing Roe, the TRAP laws gave lawmakers a back door to restrict access to abortion despite federal law.
A landmark Supreme Court case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, decided in 2016 to scrap Texas’ TRAP laws that would have closed all but nine or 10 abortion clinics in a state with more than five million women of reproductive age.
The laws included a requirement that abortion providers have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, as well as onerous requirements for the physical facilities in which the procedures are performed.
State enforcement of a TRAP law was associated with a 5.8 percent higher annual suicide rate among people ages 20 to 34 than in years before enforcement began.
In the pre-TRAP phase, the average suicide rate was around 5.5 per 100,000 women. Older women between the ages of 45 and 64 did not show the same level of risk as their younger counterparts of childbearing age. MOVE THIS UP
Suicide remains one of the leading causes of premature death in the US, although it has been eclipsed by heart disease and cancer.
The researchers also concluded that limits on abortion access were not related to increased rates of fatal car crashes, another leading cause of death for women of reproductive age.
They did not establish a direct causal relationship between abortion restrictions and suicide, but their method in the study could uncover such a relationship.
Dr Barzilay said: “This association is strong and has nothing to do with politics… It’s all backed by the data.”
The report said: “Our findings highlight the need for studies to identify the mechanisms through which restricted access to reproductive care might affect suicide risk among women of reproductive age, including by amplifying stress and anxiety, which are established risk factors for suicidal ideation and behaviour, or eliminating autonomy in decision-making around childbirth and reproductive care.
What was the June SCOTUS decision about and what does it mean for abortion access?
Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization considered whether states can ban abortion before viability, the point at which survival outside the womb is possible, around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The case stems from a blocked 2018 Mississippi law banning procedures after 15 weeks, which abortion rights advocates argued flagrantly violated the “viability” standard handed down in the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v Casey.
When the court overturned the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, the judges returned the power to control the proceedings to the states.
Now, each state has the authority to establish its own abortion access laws.
Abortion is now completely banned in more than a dozen states, and many others set pregnancy limits.
Several judges, including those in North Dakota, have stopped abortion restrictions from going into effect.