Restricting Access to Care Will Kill American Women, Children

DIY abortions increase as women's rights decrease.
DIY abortions will increase as women's rights decrease.
DIY abortions will increase as women’s rights decrease.

Today, five men on the US Supreme Court ruled that closely held, for-profit businesses can deny birth control coverage to women employees on the grounds that the corporate person’s religious freedom has been somehow diminished.

The SCOTUS decision on two cases– Burwell vs Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities vs Burwell– is just the most recent assault on women’s rights and reproductive freedom.

In recent years, hundreds of bills passed by red state legislatures have chipped away at women’s rights to the extent that lives will be lost as more women are denied access to affordable contraception, women’s health services, and legal abortions. Although the south has been particularly hard hit, many states (including Arizona) have been working diligently to restrict access by burdening clinics with unnecessary regulations. Republicans in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana are shutting down nearly all of their clinics.  Ohio Republicans want to stop women from using IUDs— one of the most effective forms of birth control.

In many states, women now are forced to drive hundreds of miles to have legal abortions or  drive to Mexico for a dangerous backroom deal or buy do-it-yourself drugs at flea markets or have children they cannot physically, financially or emotionally care for. Several states that have curtailed women’s health services– like Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Louisana–  have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. These Republican strategies will result in pre-mature death– especially for poor women and their children.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, quoted by Think Progress, the 8.6 million women of reproductive age who in Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi may soon be served by only 12 abortion clinics in the entire region, and there will be no clinics in the state of Mississippi or in the western regions of Texas and Oklahoma. (Map here.)

Many of the states with the highest poverty rates (map) are the same states whose lawmakers have opted out of Medicaid expansion (map) and passed laws to restrict access to reproductive services (map). Women who live in the south and up through the middle of the country are screwed.

What makes all of this really depressing is when you look at poverty rates for women and children. From the National Women’s Law Center (pdf)…

  • The poverty rate for women was 14.5% in 2012 (11% for men); 17.8 million women live in poverty, including 7.8 million who live in extreme poverty.
  • Forty percent of female-headed families with children are poor.
  • More than half of all poor children live in families headed by women.
  • Women who work fulltime earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man– an annual difference of $11,608 in median earnings.

And you compare that to pregnancy rates for unmarried women. According to the US Census Bureau (pdf), births to unmarried women have been increasing since 1940. The birth rate for unmarried women was 80% higher in 2007 than it was in 1980. Nationwide, 35.7% of births are to unmarried women, but the rates vary widely by state. In three states– Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico– plus the District of Columbia nearly 50% of births are to unmarried women.

An underground railroad has sprung up to help women get the care they need; this is not unlike what happened in the early 1970s when abortions were legal in New York and Michigan– but no where else. This is a bandaid solution.

As I mused the other day, what is the Republican end game here? Is it all about race, money, and power? You betcha ya.

By denying basic healthcare through Medicaid and denying reproductive services by closing most– if not all– abortion clinics, Republicans are dooming millions of women and their children to lives of poverty, unnecessary disease, and premature death.

Women are indeed second class citizens in the United States.



  1. An organic food company, Eden Foods, joined Hobby Lobby in suing for the right to dictate women’s health care and contraception decisions.

    Eden Foods products are sold at all Sprouts Farmers Market stores in Arizona. Please ask Sprouts if they support this radical intrusion into women’s lives.

  2. This was an informative article that was well written and, despite some areas where I thought it was misleading (as I discuss in my comment below) in some spots, it was a good read. But the hyperbolic headline was a poor lead-in to a deserving article. It played into the old canard of women and children always suffering more than anyone else no matter what happens. In one of his books, George Carlin entitled a chapter:


    I know headlines are often used to grab attention, but sometimes a headline can detract from a good article.

    • Women will suffer more and die prematurely when you lump high rates of poverty, wage discrimination and lack of access to contraception, prenatal care, abortion, and basic health care through Medicaid together. Stop trying to shine on the facts.

      • I’m not trying to shine on any facts. The campaign for health care for women has been very successful. The fact the demand is insatiable doesn’t mean great strides have been made. A simple example is breast cancer and prostate cancer. The funding devoted to research and treatment of breast cancer has been a magnitude greater than the funding devoted to prostate cancer. Each year more men die of prostate cancer than women die of breast cancer, yet you rarely hear about it. Almost weekly the news talks about breast cancer and the strides being made in achieving a cure or a fundraising event to keep the search going. In the meantime, prostate cancer marches on. Men die younger and our mortality rate is higher, but that is considered acceptable. Men are expendable.

        I have been around for a long time, and heard the rhetoric: “It is for the children”; “The women and children are paying a price”; “Women are suffering”; “Men are pigs”; et. al. I have seen the government spend billions (trillions?) on programs to make things right, but it never changes. Things just seem to get worse. I am told that women and children have never been in worse shape than they are today and the Republicans are only going to make them suffer more. If these government programs have changed and things have only gotten worse, then why in heck do we keep pouring money down the same hole? That’s insane. The most we ever do is change the name of a program and draw a new line we call success.

        So when I say that a headline is hyperbolic when it says women and children will die I mean it. It is simply one more use of hysterical comments that have been used for the last forty years.

        • You sound like a Republican lawmaker. Lots of bluster– not many facts.

          According to the American Cancer Society’s latest statistics, the death rate for prostate cancer is nearly identical to that of breast cancer– ~20/100,000– and the death rate for prostate cancer has been cut in half since the early 1990s. Men generally get prostate cancer when they’re older (>65); yes, some men can get it younger, but it is primarily a disease of old men. If a guy lives long enough, he will have prostate cancer cells, but that doesn’t mean he died from prostate cancer. (In fact, far more men die from lung disease.) Women can get breast cancer in their 30s, and when they do the disease is very aggressive and requires aggressive, expensive treatment. Stop whining about spending so much money on those worthless breast cancer patients and their “insatiable” appetite for healthcare services.



          It’s a simple fact that lack of access to medical care causes pre-mature death and unnecessary disease. Just ask some of the 40 million Americans who have been living without health insurance.

          The way to cut medical costs and save lives is not to rob Susie to take care of John; it’s to focus on prevention, early detection, and timely treatment. Our medical system is overly expensive because of a focus on disease treatment (rather than prevention), unnecessary diagnostic testing, not negotiating drug prices for Medicare (thanks to George Bush and the all-Republican-spend-and-spend Congress of 2006) or for the ACA (again thanks to Republican protecting big corporations), and over-reliance on a capitalist system that rewards corporations, not patients.

          Denying care from people– as the red state Medicaid deniers have done– will create an unnecessary public health disaster in those states. People will die thanks to Republican policies. Remember Jan Brewer’s death panels when she knocked 250,000 Arizonans off of Medicaid, including people on transplant lists? People did die from her actions.

  3. I have to disagree with you when you imply that the rise in unmarried mothers is the result of declining access to birth control and abortions. There is a cultural change that has come over our country in the last twenty years wherein the need for marriage or husbands has been tossed aside. Young women increasingly want to keep their babies whether they can afford it or not. Government handouts such as Section 8 housing, food stamps, utility assistance, health care, etc., encourage young women to think they can make it on their own. Of course these handouts are pitifully small and prove to be a trap from which they cannot escape. But that is not because they didn’t have access to birth control and abortions. It is because they chose to do it.

    How do we change that?

    • I did not say that the rise in unmarried mothers was *totally* due to access to abortion, but going forward access to contraception, abortion, and BASIC MEDICAL CARE (like prenatal care for poor women) will increase not only the number of unmarried mothers but also the number of women and children living in poverty, going hungry, and dying younger than necessary.

  4. Remember a conversation with my 92 year old aunt in 2000 who worked so hard more than half a century ago to get reproductive rights (basically just plain old birth control) for women. She was so dismayed by the way personal rights were being eroded now and said “I thought we had fought all those battles long ago . . .”

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