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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Jessica Glenza

Rate of sterilizations in US jumped after overturning of Roe v Wade, study shows

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A mobile vasectomy clinic in West Burlington, Iowa, on 18 November 2022. Photograph: Keith Turrill/Alamy

Rates of people seeking permanent contraception – such as tubal ligation or vasectomies – shot up after the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade in 2022, in the Dobbs decision.

Although both procedures increased, the rate of increase was double for tubal ligations, commonly known as a woman getting her “tubes tied”.

“The major difference in patterns of these two procedures likely reflects the fact that young women are overwhelmingly responsible for preventing pregnancy,” Jacqueline Ellison, assistant professor in the department of health policy and management at the Pitt School of Public Health in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said in a release.

People capable of getting pregnant “disproportionately experience the health, social and economic consequences of abortion bans”, she said.

Researchers are only beginning to grapple with the health effects of the Dobbs decision, which has allowed 21 US states to severely restrict or almost entirely ban abortion.

Another research letter in Jama Internal Medicine found that more than 65,000 US rape victims could not get an abortion in their own state because of bans. Some experts also expect abortion bans to increase the rates of babies born with severe genetic abnormalities and worsen maternal mortality rates, particularly among Black women and especially in many deep south states that have among the worst rates in the nation.

The new research letter was published in the journal Jama Health Forum. Ellison and her co-authors used the TriNetX platform, which gathers data largely from major academic medical centers, to perform an analysis of de-identified patient records that contained the procedure codes for tubal ligations and vasectomies.

Researchers studied the period leading up to the supreme court’s decision, from 2019 to 2022, and then afterward from 2022 to 2023. They focused specifically on people aged 18-30 – a group in their prime reproductive years. This group is also more likely to regret undergoing sterilization compared with people older than 30.

Researchers found an increase of 58 tubal ligations or five procedures a month after Dobbs. They also found an increase of about 27 vasectomies after Dobbs, but no significant increase per month.

The study was unable to look at specific regions of the country, because TriNetX does not collect identifying information about facilities. Similarly, researchers were unable to explore the experiences of racial minorities, low-income and disabled people through the data. Those groups are known to suffer worse health outcomes overall, and are likely to be more susceptible to the coercion of abortion bans.

Researchers said the higher rate among women and people capable of getting pregnant may “reflect the disproportionate health, social and economic consequences of compulsory pregnancy” on them.

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