Protesters at the U.S. Supreme Court. (Robin Bravender/States Newsroom)
As many states continue to restrict access to abortion, this November, Colorado voters will get a chance to stop an abortion ban. Proposition 115 would ban abortion at 22 weeks of pregnancy. As a nurse practitioner who has provided care for young families for over a decade and as a researcher who has documented the experiences of young people who were denied abortion by judges, I urge you to vote “no” on Proposition 115.
It is my informed and professional opinion that Colorado families and children will suffer if abortion is banned. Colorado voters must consider what happens to pregnant people and their families when they are denied abortions.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco followed nearly 1,000 women across the United States for five years. Some of these women were denied a wanted abortion due to gestational limits, some received a wanted abortion just under the gestational limit, and others received a wanted first-trimester abortion.
What researchers found should make us concerned about the potential abortion ban in Colorado — particularly given the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.
Abortion does not cause mental health problems. However, research has shown that denial of abortion causes short-term mental health problems. One week after seeking abortion, women denied abortions had more anxiety and lower self-esteem than those able to have an abortion. Five years later, almost all women able to obtain abortion felt it was the right decision.
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Despite a common belief that abortions later in pregnancy are more traumatic, there were no differences in post-traumatic stress symptoms between women who had abortions later in pregnancy and those who had first-trimester abortions, and most symptoms of post-traumatic stress were unrelated to the pregnancy.
The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine critically weighed decades of research and in 2018 they confirmed that abortion is safe and effective and does not cause breast cancer or infertility.
Physical health risks from giving birth are much greater than for having an abortion. People are 14 times more likely to die from giving birth than from abortion. Women who gave birth after being denied an abortion reported more life-threatening conditions than those obtaining first-trimester abortions or abortions later in pregnancy. Women who gave birth because they were denied abortion reported poorer overall health than women who received abortions, including more headaches and joint pain, even five years after seeking abortion.
Banning abortion will disproportionately harm Black women, who already suffer more pregnancy-related complications due to systemic racism.
Denying someone a wanted abortion is denying them economic security.
Women denied abortions were more likely to live in poverty than women who received a wanted abortion. And ten years after seeking abortion, women denied abortions had more debt and evictions than those who obtained abortion.
Banning abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic will amplify economic and housing insecurity that many Colorado families are already experiencing. The abortion ban will unfairly affect young people, people of color, and immigrants who may be struggling to meet basic needs.
People denied abortions may stay with a violent partner. Risk of intimate partner violence decreased after women received an abortion but not for women who were denied abortion, exposing them and the child they delivered to continued violence.
Intimate partner violence has risen worldwide given COVID-19 stay-at-home orders and may stay elevated given a potential long-term economic crisis.
Forcing people with violent partners to give birth is cruel.
Banning abortion hurts children. Children born because their mothers were denied abortion, experienced poorer maternal-child bonding than children born later to women who received a wanted abortion. The existing children of women denied abortion had poorer development and were more likely to experience economic hardship than children whose mothers had a wanted abortion.
If we care about the health and well-being of families and children, we will not force people to have a child. Let’s support families, particularly during an unprecedented health and economic crisis.
Vote “no” on Proposition 115.
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