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AP: States passing tough abortion laws often have weak social programs

FILE - A patient speaks with receptionist and office assistant Mattie Nichols, right, at Sisters in Birth, a Jackson, Miss., integrative and holistic clinic that serves pregnant women, Dec. 17, 2021. States with some of the nation’s strictest abortion laws are also some of the hardest places to have and raise a healthy child, especially for the poor, according to an analysis of federal data by the AP. Mississippi has the nation’s largest share of children living in poverty and babies with low birth weights. (AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis, File)


Lindsay Whitehurst, Camille Fassett, Linda Gorman and Jasen Lo collaborated with a team of AP state reporters on an analysis of federal data showing that states passing the toughest abortion restrictions are generally the most challenging places for people to have and raise children. With the U.S. Supreme Court widely expected to roll back abortion rights later this year, the data and reporting revealed a weak network of social services in many of these states for women who become pregnant and may be unable to obtain an abortion.

AP’s analysis,led by data journalists Fassett and Lo, looked at seven social safety net measurements collected by the federal government; visualized in an engaging interactive by the data team’s Gorman. The reporting team,led by Utah statehouse reporter Whitehurst,interviewed parents,researchers and nonprofit groups that provide support to pregnant people,new parents, infants and young children.

Texas,for example,has the highest rate of women receiving no prenatal care during their first trimester and ranks second worst for the proportion of children in poverty who are uninsured. Mississippi has the nation’s largest share of children living in poverty. Alabama and Louisiana joined Mississippi as the states with the highest percentage of babies born with low birth weights.

And while the data overwhelming showed that Republican-controlled states with strict abortion laws performed the worst on these social services,the reporting also came with the important caveat that a few Democratically controlled states with more permissive abortion laws,including New Mexico, also measured poorly in some categories.

A full social media plan by Sophia Eppolito and Ed Medeles accompanied the package.

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