Abortion Bans: Denial of Bodily Autonomy; Long-lasting Consequences

February 24, 2024

Abortion Bans: Denial of Bodily Autonomy; Long-lasting Consequences

Written by Aliye Runyan, MD, AMSA Reproductive Health Strategist


An impactful article, displayed in photojournalism style, came out in ProPublica this past week.

The story focuses on one woman and her family during the year following a denied abortion in the state of Tennessee.  The story paints in vivid and saddening detail how Mayron Hollis and her family, who already were struggling to make ends meet and take care of their first child, received little to no assistance from the state when their second child was born. The article describes how both Mayron and her partner faced worsening financial and legal difficulties as they tried to provide for their new infant. 

This is the unfortunate reality for many people across the country, and further shows that abortion bans do not in fact protect the pregnant person or their families. Compounding this problem, most ban states are those who also refuse to expand Medicaid, which further decreases social services to new parents in need

As an abortion provider, seeing these stories invokes shock but unfortunately, not surprise. For years, abortion providers and activists in the Reproductive Justice Movement have sounded the alarm about the devastating consequences of abortions bans, lack of abortion access in many states (which existed pre-Dobbs), and of course the many new and more egregious laws which have come about since the Dobbs decision. The stories we hear now are the known consequences of the denial of bodily autonomy and medical care, not to mention, complete negation of the expertise and training of medical professionals. 

The Turnaway Study, conducted over the past decade by the ANSIRH (Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health) research team in Northern California, confirmed what abortion providers already know: that receiving an abortion does not negatively affect the health and wellbeing of the pregnant person; however, being denied an abortion results in worse financial, health and family outcomes. The study shows that women denied an abortion were more likely to experience serious complications from the pregnancy including eclampsia and death, more likely to stay with an abusive partner, more likely to see poor health outcomes for years after the pregnancy. Furthermore, being denied an abortion has serious implications for the children born of unwanted pregnancy, as well as for the existing children in the family.

As we will inevitably face more attacks on human rights and bodily autonomy, as well as the delegitimization of medical expertise, it is important to stay rooted in the science and facts of the matter: abortion is basic medical care, abortion is an expression of bodily autonomy, and denial of abortion care is a violation of that human right.