Commentary

Being pregnant in America is growing more dangerous. Shouldn’t it be voluntary?

January 31, 2024 7:00 am

Car accidents, the most common cause of non-natural deaths in the U.S., would require a person to be in 52 accidents to equal the risk of childbirth for Black women. (Getty Images)

Giving birth is more dangerous than nearly every job in the United States, and it’s three times more dangerous for Black women. If becoming pregnant is so risky, shouldn’t it at the very least be voluntary?

In Indiana, more than 1.5 million women, and more people with uteruses, are currently of reproductive age — and therefore could potentially need an abortion. If you happen to be one of these people and become pregnant, statistics reveal a stark reality —that bringing a child into the world poses greater risks than some of the most dangerous occupations.

The maternal mortality rate for Black women stands at 69.9 per 100,000, more than twice the average rate for women in general and three times the risk faced by white women. To put this into perspective, an educator on TikTok recently compared the maternal mortality rate to occupations known for their risk, and it’s getting a lot of attention — for good reason.

It’s because his examples are mind-boggling: In 2021, 129 police officers lost their lives, resulting in a mortality rate of 19.5. This means a police officer would need to spend 3 years and 7 months in fieldwork to face a risk equivalent to that of a Black woman having one child.

Construction workers, facing a fatality rate of 3.6 per 100,000 full-time workers, would need to toil for 19 years and five months to equal the risk level faced by Black women in childbirth. Even soldiers on duty, with a fatality rate of 1.3 per 100,000 would have to spend an astonishing 53 years and 8 months on deployment to reach the same level of risk.

Car accidents, the most common cause of non-natural deaths in the U.S., would require a person to be in 52 accidents to equal the risk of childbirth for Black women.

Abortion anniversary

The recent Roe v. Wade anniversary, which should be a celebration of a person’s fundamental right to choose when or whether to start a family and ultimately control their own body, has turned into a stark reminder for the erosion of reproductive health and freedom.

In their pursuit of anti-abortion policies, extremist politicians have become architects of intentional suffering while turning a blind eye to the very real maternal health crisis in this state. The result becomes clear when we witness systematic denial of care to rape survivors and cancer patients, actions that were not unforeseen but meticulously planned by the creators and supporters of these anti-abortion policies. If you’re a rape or incest victim in Indiana, you only have one hospital – the Indiana University Medical Center – that can help you.

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Abortion bans make pregnancy less safe, period. In fact, carrying a pregnancy to term is thirty-three times riskier for the pregnant person than having an abortion. Anti-abortion legislators, or the Indiana Supermajority, would like voters to believe in their innocence and are gaslighting voters with bills like providing tax exemptions for pregnant people with faulty promises of support. In reality, laws like SB 98 and HB 1379 that equate a fetus with a child are an underhanded attempt to lay the groundwork for fetal “personhood” in state law. We know that so-called “personhood” measures like this one create confusion and chaos in our legal system, and often result in the surveillance of and criminalization of pregnant people, including those that experience negative pregnancy outcomes like miscarriage and stillbirth.

Don’t be deceived. Bills proposed by the same people who created the conditions currently exacerbating negative maternal health outcomes today via their previous abortion ban legislation, won’t have realistic solutions to support pregnant people and families in the future.

This extremist state legislature isn’t done stopping access to most abortions: it is coming for medication abortion and birth control. Anti-abortion lawmakers will stop at nothing in order to enforce a worldview that dictates a woman’s role is to be pregnant and stay pregnant. It’s sick. It’s sad. And it’s our reality. It is crucial to recognize that abortion is not just health care but a fundamental freedom, and the intrusion of politicians into personal reproductive choices is unacceptable.

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Haley Bougher
Haley Bougher

Haley Bougher is the Indiana State Director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates and is a local Hoosier who resides in the Southside of Indianapolis.

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