By Umaima Arif | Contributor
According to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, American women who live in states with less restrictive reproductive rights policies are less likely to give birth to babies with low birth weights than women living in states with more restrictive policies.
Reproductive rights policies concern an individual’s right to plan for a family, use contraceptives if necessary, have access to reproductive health services or facilities such as abortions, and be educated regarding general reproductive health. States with less restrictive reproductive rights policies enable these rights to a greater degree than states with more restrictive policies.
As supplied by lead investigator May Sudhinaraset, PhD of the Department of Community Health Sciences in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, the study confirms that implementing and maintaining less restrictive reproductive rights policies is ideal for maternal and neonatal health.
Specifically, the study examined and established a significant association between the reproductive rights policies of different states and the subsequent birth weight of children born in these states. This is important because babies with low birth weights are at a higher risk of developing both short and long term health problems.
The study analyzed the birth record data of approximately four million babies born in all 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2016. It found that not only do women living in states with less restrictive policies have a seven percent lower overall risk of giving birth to a baby with low birth weight, but more particularly, the low-birth weight risk was 8 percent lower among black women in the states with less restrictive policies compared to their counterparts in the most restrictive states.
The study’s findings align with an increasing body of literature addressing the “context-dependent nature of race” as a relevant and significant determinant of population health. In context, the study’s findings suggest that the expansion of reproductive rights policies for women (regardless of race) may decrease the risk of low birth-weights in the children they bear, especially for women in demographics such as that of US-born black women. Furthermore, the study was able to establish this association between reproductive rights and birth weights for US-born women of color, not foreign women of color.
It is crucial to understand and address systemic racism in healthcare and its adverse effects on the health of black, indigeonous, and colored (BIPOC) women, along with that of their families. Relatedly, general statistics report that black women are more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than women from any other race, to experience greater complications to maternal health, and to receive lower quality of maternal care.
Such discussions concern how broader social factors affect birth outcomes and the subsequent health of the next generation, more specifically by examining the impact of race and nativity status. This redirects current focuses on how racial, socio-economic and sex-based inequalities in healthcare, wealth, and housing may structurally impact and even reinforce discriminatory practices, along with unequal distributions of resources and services.
According to Dr. Sudhinaraset, further focus on evidence-based policies highlighting women’s “lived experiences of policy exclusion and inclusion,” along with policy levers that ensure increased access to reproductive health services, can prove crucial in observing how reproductive disadvantages and poor health outcomes are subsequently created and further exacerbated by these factors.Science and Technology