How Abortion Restrictions Affect People Disproportionately

How abortion restrictions affect people disproportionately

Certain abortion restrictions have been put in place all around the world in order to “save lives.” Globally, 24 countries enforce a total abortion ban with no exceptions to this rule, not even when a pregnant person’s life is at risk, while 41 countries allow abortion only in cases where the pregnant person’s health is at risk [1]. Several studies have proven, over time, that there’s a correlation between restrictive abortion laws and poor mother and infant health [2]. Therefore, this intention to “save lives” not only holds no credibility; but, actually, the restrictive abortion law does quite the reverse.

Moreover, restrictive abortion laws do not have the comprehensive effect that their supporters so often hope for. Most of the harm falls on the underprivileged population, mostly women and those of color, and those in the lower-income bracket [3]. Let’s take a look at the United States where all 50 states have been given more freedom to enact restrictive abortion laws following the supreme court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization.

They reaped what they did not sow: Who are the most at risk from restrictive abortion laws?

It is true that abortion bans affect everyone, but it is especially devastating to those who lack access to safe and legal abortions. Those barriers may be financial, social, environmental, or even political. Black, Latino, and indigenous communities; people with disabilities; and LGBTQ+ people face far greater risks from these abortion bans than those with the means to travel out of states for abortions and those who face less scrutiny when receiving health services. In fact, a study indicates that people who are denied abortions are nearly four times more likely to live below the poverty line than those who were able to access a desired abortion [3]. And amongst those from poor-income households, they are more likely to be people of color [4]. That means they might not have the means to travel out of states to get an abortion and the post-abortion care that they need, nor do they have the resources to carry a child to term and raise the child. This triple dilemma traps these minorities in a loop of suffering and so, they might resort to unsafe abortions.

Yet, the number of people facing this harsh predicament is not a small or insignificant population. Out of the total of 50 states, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion. A new National Partnership for Women & Families analysis shows that out of the 36 million women of reproductive age who live in these states:

  • 14.8 million reproductive-age women of color live in these 26 states,
  • 2.8 million are women with disabilities,
  • 12.6 million are women who are economically insecure, and
  • 15.8 million are mothers with children under 18 at home.

This is not including the 1.3 million transgender people and 1.2 million LGBTQ+ nonbinary people in the United States who will be deeply affected [5].
The fact that a lot of people of color report being treated to a different health-care experience by individual providers, such as providers being dismissive and inattentive of health conditions, leads to medical mistrust [4]. This, coupled with lack of access in abortion-restrictive states,makes the situation even more harrowing.

Policies in place that further complicate the matter

Some may try to argue that the underprivileged groups that have been mentioned who live under the poverty line could be supplemented with Medicaid, health insurance, and work-place pregnancy benefits. However, things are not as easy as they seem.

People of color between the ages of 18-49 face greater barriers to accessing health care overall compared to their white counterparts [4]. They are also more likely to be covered by Medicaid, for which the Hyde Amendment, an amendment which has been passed every year since 1976, has restricted abortion coverage except under very small circumstances [4]. People of color and immigrants, especially Black and Latinx people, are less likely to receive pregnancy benefits as they usually work in jobs where pregnancy accommodations are often denied, such as jobs in retail, food services, and health care [3]. It’s also more probable that they work in physically demanding services, which increases the risk of preterm delivery and low birth weight [3].

Other laws, such as the Parental Involvement Law, create barriers to abortion for minors as they require them to receive their parents’ consent or inform them of their decision to undergo an abortion. This law has been seen to lead to an increase in teen birth rates and out-of-state travel for abortion. It has also been associated with lower chances of high school completion for black people as they are more likely expected to carry the child to term [6].

Another one of such laws is the Texas House bill 2 (HB2), which bans abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization and requires that doctors who perform abortions have admitting privileges (a right granted to a doctor to admit a patient to a hospital, and not all clinicians are given this privilege) at a nearby hospital, which decreases the number of doctors that can perform abortions [6].


To echo our beginning sentiment, it seems clear that restrictive abortion laws do much more harm than good. But besides all that, it is a gross injustice to women’s rights, human rights, as well as children’s rights and well-being because the children born as a result of an unwanted pregnancy are greatly affected. Restrictive abortion laws affect everyone regardless of whether they’re young or old, rich or poor, white or people of color, but to those that are underprivileged and marginalized, they exacerbate a vicious cycle of poverty and oppression.

  1. “The World’s Abortion Laws.” Center for Reproductive Rights,  2021, Accessed January 2023.
  2. Pabayo, R, et al. “Laws Restricting Access to Abortion Services and Infant Mortality Risk in the United States.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, June 2020, 1;17(11), Accessed January 2023.
  3. “Abortion Rights and Access are Inextricably Tied to Equality and Gender Justice .” National Women’s Law Center, 2022, Accessed January 2023.
  4. Ranji, U. “What are the Implications of the Overturning of Roe v. Wade for Racial Disparities?” KFF, 2022, Accessed January 2023.
  5. National Partnership for Women & Families. “State Abortion Bans Could Harm Nearly 15 Million Women of Color.” National Partnership for Women and Families, 2022, Accessed January 2023.