The Pregnancy-Related Mortality Impact of a Total Abortion Ban in the United States: A Research Note on Increased Deaths Due to Remaining Pregnant

Demography. 2021 Dec 1;58(6):2019-2028. doi: 10.1215/00703370-9585908.


In this research note, I estimate one component of the mortality impact of denying all wanted induced abortions in the United States. This estimate quantifies the magnitude of an increase in pregnancy-related deaths that would occur solely because of the greater mortality risk of continuing a pregnancy rather than having a legal induced abortion. Using published statistics on pregnancy-related mortality ratios, births, and abortions, I estimate U.S. pregnancy-related deaths by race and ethnicity before and in the first and subsequent years of a hypothetical total abortion ban. The number of estimated deaths following a total abortion ban is determined by assuming three conditions: that all wanted induced abortions are denied, that each abortion denied leads to 0.8 births, and that there is a corresponding increase in exposure to pregnancy-related mortality. I find that in the first year of such a ban, estimated pregnancy-related deaths would increase from 675 to 724 (49 additional deaths, representing a 7% increase), and in subsequent years to 815 (140 additional deaths, for a 21% increase). Non-Hispanic Black people would experience the greatest increase in deaths (a 33% increase in subsequent years). Estimated pregnancy-related deaths would increase for all races and ethnicities examined. Overall, denying all wanted induced abortions in the United States would increase pregnancy-related mortality substantially, even if the rate of unsafe abortion did not increase.

Keywords: Abortion; Family planning; Maternal mortality; Policy; Pregnancy-related mortality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Induced*
  • Abortion, Legal
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Parturition
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Pregnancy
  • United States / epidemiology