Anti-Abortion Laws and Intimate Partner Violence Deaths Are Linked

Anti-abortion laws are linked with an increase in intimate partner violence-related homicides of women and girls, a new study has found — even before the Dobbs decision that repealed Roe v. Wade.

The more states enact laws targeted at abortion providers, known as TRAP laws, the more women who are pregnant or recently gave birth are likely to be killed by a romantic partner, according to a new study.

Published in Health Affairs Monday, the study examined the association between state laws that restrict access to abortion and trends in intimate partner violence-related homicide among women and girls between the ages of 10 and 44.

Using data from the Centers for Disease and Prevention from 2014 to 2020 — before the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade in 2022 — researchers found that enforcement of each additional TRAP law was associated with a 3.4 percent increase in the rate of intimate partner violence-related homicide.

The study supports previous research findings that policies restricting abortion provision may result in more women being unable to terminate unwanted pregnancies, potentially keeping them in contact with violent partners and putting women and their children at risk.

Intimate partner violence is defined as abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship, according to the CDC, and it disproportionately impacts women — particularly those who are or were recently pregnant.

In fact, research has shown that homicide is a leading cause of death for pregnant women in the United States: women in the U.S. are more likely to be murdered during pregnancy or soon after childbirth than to die from the three leading obstetric causes of maternal mortality: hypertensive disorders, hemorrhage, or sepsis.

The new study suggests that this reality is only made worse by abortion restrictions, and specifically TRAP laws.

TRAP laws are restrictions on abortion providers that aim to close them down rather than improve their care or make them safer, according to Planned Parenthood.

These laws typically involve medically unnecessary and costly requirements imposed on abortion providers — requirements they’re often unable to follow — leading them to close down as a result. Though these laws are often pushed under the guise of "women's health," Planned Parenthood says the real aim of these laws is to shut down abortion providers and make it more difficult for people to access abortion.

“Medical experts like the American Medical Association and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists oppose TRAP laws because they don’t improve safety — just the opposite,” the organization says. “TRAP laws hurt people by blocking access to safe medical care.”

In addition to the lack of access to safe medical care, the study authors suggest that future assessment of policies that restrict access to abortion should consider their potential harm to reproductive-age women through the increased risk for violent death.

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