Life without Roe: How overturning ruling may impact foster care, maternal mortality and infant mortality
Children (Shutterstock)

Monday evening, Politico released the draft decision by Justice Samuel Alito that overturned the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, possibly calling into question rights including access to birth control (Casey) and same-sex marriage (Obergefell). Pro-choice activists are warning that the ban won't eliminate abortions, rather it will eliminate safe abortions, as was recorded in the 1970s before the Roe decision.

The law hasn't yet been overturned, as the draft hasn't been officially published by the Supreme Court. The final documents should be published in June.

All the same, an eventual ruling overturning Roe will have major repercussions for many aspects of American life that are already dangerous for women and children.

Foster Care and Adoption

When current Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett sat for questions in the Senate Judiciary Committee during her confirmation hearing, she was asked whether banning abortion be so bad if women could just drop their newborns off at the fire station for adoption.

While such an arrangement may sound fine in the abstract, the reality is that such a development would add major stress on an already overburdened foster care system.

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Over the past few years, the horrors of the mismanaged foster care system have been font-page news. In Florida, where Republican leaders privatized the system, the state paid another company to handle about 19,000 children in the state. There are now several lawsuits against the state after children were beaten, molested, denied medical care, and starved while foster parents got away with it.

In fact, USA Today recently revealed a cache of documents obtained as part of its ongoing investigation into the failures of Florida to keep children safe.

"None of these cases would have been counted in what Florida publicly reports each year about the number of serious abuse, neglect and abandonment allegations in its foster care system," said the report.

Florida isn't the only state. Oklahoma just passed the strictest abortion ban in the country. Meanwhile, a study published in 2017 revealed that Oklahoma is the worst state for abuse and neglect for children in foster care.

"The state had 121 more abuse and neglect cases than Texas, despite the fact that Oklahoma only has around four million people, while Texas has 27 million. Perhaps more surprising, Oklahoma had 34 more abuse cases than California, which has a population almost ten times larger than the Sooner State," reported the High Plains Public radio.

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The numbers average out to about three cases of abuse, neglect or sexual molestation a week.

Two years later, after Oklahoma attempted to mitigate the damage done to its foster care system's reputation, a new report revealed the state still ranked among the top ten worst states for underprivileged children. Even the safest states in the U.S. can't eliminate abuse and neglect entirely.

A Supreme Court ruling ending the right to abortion would add even more strain to a foster care system already dealing with hundreds of thousands of children.

Maternal mortality

The United States ranks the worst in the industrialized world for maternal mortality, and a 2018 study explained it's entirely preventable.

"The vast majority of women in America give birth without incident. But each year, more than 50,000 are severely injured. About 700 mothers die. The best estimates say that half of these deaths could be prevented and half the injuries reduced or eliminated with better care," the report explained.

It means that if the Supreme Court forces women to give birth, it is also forcing them to risk their own lives or the life of the child.

Infant Mortality

The United States also continues to be among the worst places for infant and childhood mortality.

"From 2001 to 2010 the risk of death in the US was 76 percent greater for infants and 57 percent greater for children ages 1–19," research findings listed in the Health Affairs Journal, VOL. 37, NO. 1.

Japan was the safest country for infants whereas the U.S ranked 33 out of 36, followed by Turkey, Chile and Mexico. The rate of infant mortality in Mississippi alone is so considerable that it made the list of the most dangerous places for infants.

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The state of Mississippi brought the current case before the Supreme Court that appears likely to lead to the overturning of Roe.

Yet, Mississippi can't even guarantee the survival of a child born in its state borders, as the CDC captured in its 2020 report.

It continues to rank the highest in the United States for infant mortality.

So while ending Roe will likely lead to a reduction in legal abortions, it is no guarantee that it will reduce the rate of overall infant morality in the United States.