This Essay challenges the false assumption that abortion care can be segregated from women’s medical care and targeted for special restrictions without any effects on women’s health more broadly. As a matter of medical reality, abortion cannot be isolated from the continuum of women’s healthcare. Yet policymakers and the public have failed to understand the interconnectedness of abortion with other aspects of women’s medical care. In fact, existing abortion restrictions harm women’s health even for women not actively seeking abortion care, but these impacts remain obscured. For example, antiabortion laws and policies have spillover effects on miscarriage management, prenatal care, and the treatment of ectopic pregnancies. Focusing the public’s attention on the broader effects of abortion restrictions on women’s health could help make visible the links between abortion and healthcare. Furthermore, educating the public about the full healthcare consequences of abortion restrictions could be one key means to preserving access to abortion care. Repositioning the law to recognize abortion care as an integral part of the continuum of women’s medical needs is critical to protecting women’s health.
September 30, 2014