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New Senate Report from Hirono, Lawmakers: Health Care Providers Speak Out on Devastating Harm and Mortal Threats to Women Posed by State Abortion Bans

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Tina Smith (D-MN) released a new report revealing the devastating consequences of state abortion bans and restrictions enacted by right-wing legislatures and the impacts of Senate Republicans’ extreme proposal to ban abortion nationwide after 15 weeks. Post-Roe Abortion Bans Threaten Women’s Lives: Health Care Providers Speak Out on the Devastating Harm Posed by Abortion Bans and Restrictions is a 23-page report led by Senator Warren based on information provided by leading health care providers. The report details the effects of these radical laws on women’s access to health care as described by health care organizations representing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and hospitals.

“This report details the devastating consequences of state-level abortion bans and the potential impact of the GOP’s push to outlaw abortion nationwide,” said Senator Hirono. “The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision has sowed chaos and confusion even in states like Hawaii where abortion remains legal, endangering the health and safety of millions and disproportionately impacting communities of color. As MAGA Republicans work to advance a national abortion ban, we’ll continue fighting to defend reproductive freedom and codify abortion access nationwide.”

The key findings of the report include: 

  • State-imposed restrictions on abortion care affect all women seeking reproductive health care, even in states where abortion remains legal.
    • AMA wrote that “State-imposed restrictions on abortion care have certainly resulted in diminished access to pregnancy care, reproductive care, and other health care, as well as delays in such care.”
    • NNU wrote that “In states where abortion is legal and protected, nurses are beginning to see increased patient loads because of patients traveling to these states to receive the reproductive health care they need. This will put additional strain on nurses who are already chronically understaffed at hospitals across the country.”
  • State abortion bans have created mortal threats to women suffering from miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, and other complications.
    • The United States is already in the midst of a maternal mortality crisis, with the highest maternal mortality rate among wealthy countries, and with more than 80 percent of pregnancy-related deaths already being preventable. Abortion bans will make this crisis even worse, resulting in preventable pregnant women’s deaths.
    • PRH wrote that “Efforts to ban abortion entirely will continue to exacerbate this country’s maternal health crises. Data shows that efforts to ban abortion would lead to a 24 percent increase in maternal mortality overall.”
  • State-Imposed Restrictions on Abortion Care Threaten Health Care Providers and Interfere with the Doctor-Patient Relationship.
    • All five organizations described how conflicting, vague, and restrictive state laws place providers in impossible situations of trying to meet their ethical duties to put patient health and well-being first while attempting to comply with complex state laws that interfere in the practice of medicine and jeopardize the health of patients.
    • AHA wrote that the “threat of criminal sanctions will interfere with the exercise of health care providers’ expert judgment in the provision of medically necessary care. And this sort of chilling effect is particularly troubling in the emergency room context, where providers must make life-or-death decisions in the heat of the moment— and where delay or restraint can make all the difference.”
  • State-Imposed Restrictions on Abortion Care Disproportionately Impact Communities of Color, Rural Communities, and Low-Income Communities.
    • All five organizations described their fears that abortion bans will exacerbate existing health inequities.16 CDC data already show that Black and Indigenous women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, and state-level abortion bans will make these disparities even worse.
  • State-Imposed Restrictions on Abortion Care Result in Broader Restrictions on Medical Care and Medical Education.
    • The consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe extend beyond reproductive health care and are already impacting patients with autoimmune diseases, patients living in chronic pain, and many others, putting additional burdens on already stressed health care systems.
    • APhA wrote that “Indirectly, state-imposed restrictions on abortion care have impacted pregnancy care, reproductive care, and other forms of health care. Many of these issues have been the result of vaguely worded state policies that could be interpreted as being more broadly applied to patients even if they are not receiving care related to an abortion.”
  • Republicans’ Proposed National Abortion Ban Would Have Devastating Impact on Women’s Health and the Entire Health Care System.
    • PRH wrote that “Efforts to ban abortion across the nation will continue to cause devastating harm to people and continue to exacerbate this country’s maternal health crises. Data shows that current efforts to ban abortion would lead to a 24 percent increase in maternal mortality overall. The consequences would be even more dire for Black women. It is projected that abortion bans are estimated to lead to a 39 percent increase in maternal mortality for Black women and birthing people. Under a federal ban the outcomes for pregnant people and people giving birth would be far worse.”

The full report can be viewed here.

A long-time champion for abortion access, Senator Hirono is committed to protecting the fundamental right to abortion care for all. In August, she introduced the Let Doctors Provide Reproductive Health Care Act to protect doctors against Republicans’ non-stop attacks and ensure they can safely provide abortion care in states where it is still legal. She also led a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services urging them to make medication abortion more easily accessible. In July, Senator Hirono introduced the Right to Contraception Act, as well as the Expanding Access to Family Planning Actto protect access to critical reproductive health care services, like birth control, and cancer screenings. She also introduced the Freedom to Travel for Health Care Act of 2022, which clarifies that it is illegal for anti-choice states to limit travel for abortion services, and would empower impacted individuals to bring civil action against those who restrict a woman’s right to cross state lines to receive legal reproductive care.