The new laws criminalizing abortion in many conservative states are expected to boost birth rates among teenage moms, whose bodies often aren’t built for safe childbirth. On this episode of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday,” KHN senior correspondent Sarah Varney talks with host Ayesha Rascoe about the dangers that pregnancy poses for adolescents.
Varney shares her reporting from a recent trip to Arkansas, a state roughly tied with Mississippi for the highest teen birth rate in the country. Arkansas women have the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S., about double the national average. And the large number of teen births fuels the state’s third-highest infant mortality rate in the country.
Adolescents are at increased risk for low-birth-weight babies, high blood pressure in pregnancy, preeclampsia, and lasting uterine damage, among other complications.
“When she has her first menstruation, she is capable of becoming pregnant, but that doesn’t mean she is capable of having a child,” said Dr. Dilys Walker, director of global health research for the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California-San Francisco.
Arkansas’ trigger ban outlawing abortion went into effect the day the Supreme Court eliminated a long-standing federal right to abortion in June. For teenagers seeking medical care to end a pregnancy, the nearest clinic where abortion is now accessible is in Illinois — 400 miles northeast of Little Rock and a six-hour drive.
KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.
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