Texas’ near-total abortion ban: U-M experts can discuss

September 3, 2021

Margo Schlanger, the Wade H. and Dores M. McCree Collegiate Professor of Law, is a leading authority on civil rights issues and civil and criminal detention.

“The Court has usually been pretty protective of its own prerogatives; that is, it has liked to be the only entity that could alter its own rulings,” she told New York Magazine. “But Justice Kennedy was the most attached to that approach—and if abortion is murder (as several of the justices probably think), then some justices may view the 5th Circuit as a little eager, but admirably so, and not want to swat it down.”

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Joelle Abramowitz is an assistant research scientist at the Survey Research Center at the Institute for Social Research. She studies health insurance, medical expenditures, marriage, fertility and general health topics.

“Texas’ six-week abortion ban is effectively a ban on nearly all abortions in the state,” she said. “Research has shown the detrimental effects on women’s health and well-being of policies restricting access to abortion services at the time they seek an abortion and over the course of the rest of their lives.

“For example, previous work has found that policy environments in which abortion was legal and readily accessible by young women are estimated to have caused a 34% reduction in first births, a 19% reduction in first marriages and a 63% reduction in ‘shotgun marriages’ prior to age 19. In my own work, I’ve found that when women ages 20-24 have ready access to birth control through health insurance, abortion rates fall by 10%.”

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Sarah Miller is an assistant professor of business economics and public policy at the Ross School of Business and faculty associate at the Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research. She researches health care and health economics, business economics and public policy, and recently published a paper on the economic consequences of being denied an abortion.

“Our recent study shows that women who are denied abortions go on to experience large and persistent financial difficulties as a result, including an increase in the incidence of serious financial problems such as bankruptcies, evictions and tax liens,” she said. “Restricting abortion access—as the Texas law does—will expose many more women to these long-term financial and economic vulnerabilities.”

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Shobita Parthasarathy is a professor of public policy and director of the Ford School of Public Policy’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program. She is interested in how to develop innovation and related policy to better achieve public interest and social justice goals.

“The Supreme Court’s recent decision on abortion is likely to exacerbate inequalities at a time when we are supposed to be trying to enhance equity in our public policymaking,” she said. “With this law, more privileged women will still be able to access abortions by traveling out of state, while those without the means will likely be forced to have children. They will also have to bear the psychological and financial burdens of this, and so, too, will their families and succeeding generations. At a broad level, it’s likely to entrench poverty and inequality.”

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Ruth Zielinski is a clinical professor and head of the graduate midwifery program at the School of Nursing. Her research expertise is in women’s health around body image and sexuality and maternal health outcomes. In addition, she has more than 25 years of experience as a nurse-midwife and continues to practice, most recently in global settings.

“At 35.5 deaths per 100,000 births, Texas has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the U.S.,” she said. “To put it in perspective, California’s maternal mortality rate is 4 deaths per 100,000 births. Restricting access to safe abortion will most certainly only serve to worsen the maternal mortality rate. To truly care about life, one should also care about the life of the mother.”

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William Lopez is a clinical assistant professor of health behavior and health education at the School of Public Health. A native Texan, he is the author of the book, “Separated: Family and Community in the Aftermath of an Immigration Raid.”

“This law will disproportionately impact those who already lack access to health resources—including low-income or immigrant communities—by restricting yet one more method empirically shown to be an essential part of reproductive health care,” he said. “In Texas, you can be prosecuted for driving someone to have an abortion, a tactic taken out of Texas’ well-known anti-immigration playbook.

“This law allows enforcement to be delegated to police and extends the space of enforcement to public roads anywhere in the state. Worst, it severs the networks of those most in need by criminalizing attempts to provide support. This law isn’t about ending abortion. It’s about extending the space in which the state controls pregnancy, encouraging others to turn on vulnerable individuals in their times of crisis, and giving yet more power to police.”

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Lisa Harris, the F. Wallace and Janet Jeffries Collegiate Professor of Reproductive Health and professor of obstetrics and gynecology, directs U-M’s Fellowship in Family Planning. Her clinical work includes most aspects of general obstetrics and gynecology care, with a focus on miscarriage and family planning. In particular, her work explores abortion stigma, the experiences of abortion care providers, race and social class stratification of reproduction, and strategies for providing health care within a reproductive justice framework.

Contact: Beata Mostafavi, [email protected]

Morgan Sherburne, [email protected]

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