Abortion Reproductive Health

Grasp the Consequences of Making Abortion Illegal

The media have done a good job of describing the implications of the Supreme Court’s abolishment of Roe to individuals. However, I have read little about the effects this regrettable decision will have on society.

First of all, it means that as many as 140,000 people will not have desired abortions. This estimate was published by the Guttmacher Institute and is hopefully too high. People all over the country are working to help refer women to abortion services in states that still allow this important healthcare procedure. However, there are many who cannot afford the time away from home or money to travel that a referral would entail.

Let’s estimate what this might mean to our population growth. Currently there are about 4 million births in the USA. Let’s say that 40,000 women are able to travel to receive abortion services or otherwise end up not giving birth. This would mean that the number of births is increased by 100,000 or almost 3 percent. We need to decrease the number of unintended births, not increase them!

Other than increasing the growth rate of the USA, will these added births have any effect on society? This is difficult to know, but there is reason to believe that many of these new people will not turn out to be the best citizens.

Dr. Henry David studied unintended pregnancies in Czechoslovakia during the 1960s, with the help of Czech researchers. Those researchers did all the detective work to find the mothers, gain their permission to test their children, and continue to follow them for all those 30 years.

Abortion was legal but needed approval by a state agency. A woman could appeal if her request for an abortion was denied —however, some women were denied twice. David’ group looked at these unwilling mothers, their children and controls (mothers with wanted pregnancies), following them for over 30 years. The results are available in “Born Unwanted”, and are summarized: “The overall findings suggest that, in the aggregate, denial of abortion for unwanted pregnancy entails an increased risk for negative psychosocial development and mental well-being in adulthood.” The children of unwanted pregnancies had more brushes with the law, were less satisfied with their lives, had less education and more mental health problems.

Another project, the Turnaway Study, focused on women who wished to abort a pregnancy. These women were refused abortion care because their pregnancies were too far advanced for the clinic they attended. The Study looked at families after the birth of a denied abortion and found that they didn’t thrive well after the unwelcome addition. There was poor maternal bonding, and the mothers’ other children’s development suffered. Furthermore, these families were more likely to live below the federal poverty level than the mothers who received abortion care. I’ll write more about this revealing study in the future.

A possible cause of the decline in crime in the 1990s was popularized by Males from age 18 to 24 are most likely to commit crimes, and the theory is that the decrease in crime 18 years after Roe v. Wade in 1972 was due to increased access to abortion. The decrease in the births of unintended children may have resulted in better citizens and less criminal behavior as kids reached adolescence and adulthood.

As a young doctor, I took care of a toddler who had been scalded. I remember his young mother saying “I didn’t want him.” She told me that he was fussy and she thought a bath would help quiet him, but instead he became fussier. Out of desperation she turned up the hot water to punish her son. She deeply resented the baby who prevented her from doing normal teen things. 

The Freakonomics hypothesis is controversial. One analysis of the data suggests that the benefits to society were confined to the decline in teenage mothers. Certainly, my teen patient’s son had suffered from being unwanted. I have no follow up information on how he turned out, however.

Decreased access to safe abortion services will be a tragedy for some people and our society may suffer.

©Richard Grossman MD, 2022

Abortion Reproductive Health Women's Issues

The End of Roe Affects Colorado’s Neighbors

Signe Wilkinson Editorial Cartoon used with permission of Signe Wilkinson
and the Cartoonist Group. All rights reserved.

            Jennifer and Jake are newly-weds. The couple met in graduate school at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. She is working toward a degree in engineering and he is studying to be a nurse practitioner.

            They were doubly cautious about contraception. Although they want at least one child in the future, first they want to meet their educational goals. In addition to using condoms, they avoided sex when she thought she might be most fertile. Then they had a condom break. Jennifer kept an online menstrual diary “” and the next morning was horrified to find that she might have been fertile at that time. When her period was late and breasts started to be tender, she was sure she was pregnant.

            Since online calendars can be monitored by the “Texas abortion police”, one of the first things she did after she stopped crying was to delete that information. Next, she asked a friend who had had an abortion where she could go. She contacted all the New Mexico clinics, but they were either too busy or the availability of appointments conflicted with their student responsibilities. Finally, she made an appointment at the Durango Planned Parenthood clinic. Jake had an afternoon class on Monday, but if they slept a bit and left Lubbock before midnight, they could reach Durango in time for the 10:30 appointment.

            The couple was greeted by people yelling and waving signs outside Planned Parenthood’s parking lot. The armed guard just inside the door was much more friendly, but said that Jake needed to wait outside in the car, and Jennifer would join him in 2 or 3 hours.

An hour later she woke exhausted Jake to tell him good news. “I fell asleep while filling out the forms, but the first thing they did” she said, “was a pregnancy test. It was negative—I’m not pregnant!” Jennifer was so frightened by the new Texas laws that she was afraid to buy a pregnancy test. Instead, she took the evidence of pregnancy that her body gave her, not realizing that women can have anovulatory cycles which mimic pregnancy.

            This narrative recounts the stories of real patients, but the names and situation are fictional.

            Only 2 of 40 countries that have changed their abortion laws since 2000 are more restrictive; Nicaragua and the USA. The other 38 have increased access to safe abortions services. Ethiopia reformed its abortion laws in 2004 in response to the high death rate of women having illegal abortions. Its maternal mortality rate now is less than half of what it was before the legal reform. Already too many women are dying in the USA from pregnancy complications, but that figure will skyrocket as desperate women seek care where abortions are illegal.

            It took the high-profile death of a woman for the law to be changed in Ireland. This very Catholic country had banned all abortions with an amendment to its constitution. In 2012 Dr. Savita Halappanavar was sick with an infected miscarriage. She requested a D&C, but was told that she couldn’t have it as long as the fetal heart was beating. It was too late when the fetus did die; the mother perished from sepsis shortly after.

            For me, the overthrow of Roe v. Wade by the US Supreme Court wasn’t a surprise. Politicians, in league with churches using abortion as their rallying cry, had been pushing to make abortion illegal for decades. All the articles I’ve read have decried the tragedy to human rights, but none has mentioned that the subsequent increasing human population will have global repercussions.            What can we do? Support people coming for abortion care from antiabortion states. Donate to Planned Parenthood, the National Network of Abortion Funds, Cobalt ProChoice Colorado. Most important, vote for prochoice politicians; we need laws and constitutional amendments to guarantee access to safe abortion care. Please remember, the majority of Americans are prochoice.

©Richard Grossman MD, 2022