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CU Boulder study finds banning abortion would cause more deaths

The study found losing access to abortion would increase maternal mortality by 24%.

BOULDER, Colo. — A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder concludes that banning abortion would increase maternal mortality by 24%. 

That number jumps to 39% for Black people. 

That's more mothers dying from pregnancy than previously thought. 

"I have two living children, but I've been pregnant six times," said Dani Newsum, director of strategic partnerships at Cobalt

Preeclampsia is just one complication that makes pregnancy dangerous.

"I had preeclampsia with our son. I then experienced two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy," Newsum said. "Our first daughter was born at 27 weeks to save her life and mine, since my high blood pressure was so very high. And I lived and our first daughter did not."

Newsum said she was fortunate to have access to healthcare and was able to be on bed rest while she was pregnant. 

"In some states right now where they have outlawed abortion and they don't make any exception for the health or the life of the pregnant person, what does someone do?" she said. "You have lawmakers across the country who have elevated the potential life of an embryo over the real life of a living, breathing human being. It's tragic.”

The new study by CU Boulder shows banning abortion would increase maternal mortality by 24%, or about 210 more deaths per year. That's an increase from previous data released in 2017.

Researchers said the study did not include factors such as how society will facilitate access to abortion for people living in states where it's illegal, or how criminalization will impact people seeking healthcare. The study focuses solely on how maternal mortality is impacted by abortion because staying pregnant carries a higher risk of death than having an abortion.

"Abortion is very safe. Staying pregnant is relatively deadly in the United States, and so more people will die just because of that without any other changes at all," Amanda Stevenson, lead author of the study, said in an interview with CU Boulder. "Ending abortion and therefore forcing everyone to remain pregnant has a disproportionately high effect on maternal deaths among Black people." 

Researchers estimate that in states with already high maternal mortality and moderate-to-high abortion rates (like Florida and Georgia), deaths would increase by 29%.

"Abortion is legal in Colorado," Newsum said. "We are here to support you, and that's something I'd really want people, wherever they are, to know." 

In 2021, Newsum said, Cobalt spent $6,000 on travel, hotel, food and childcare costs for pregnant people seeking abortion in Colorado. From June 24 to July 21 of this year, they spent $57,773.

Newsum said this increase in practical support funding illustrates the number of pregnant people from out-of-state seeking abortions in Colorado. She said 64% of the 168 people who benefitted from this funding were from Texas, 31% were from other states and 5% were from Colorado.

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