Press Release: The State of Reproductive Health in California

California teens are half as likely to become pregnant compared to peers in states banning abortion and California ranks in the top ten states for newborn survival rates

(LOS ANGELES, CA) As the nation observes the one-year anniversary of the United States Supreme Court eliminating 50 years of abortion rights, theGender Equity Policy Institute (GEPI) released The State of Reproductive Health in California to compare basic measures of reproductive health in California with states across the country that support, restrict or ban abortion. 

On June 24 last year, the court overturned abortion rights established through Roe v. Wade – ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationthat the constitution does not guarantee a women’s right to abortion. The report released today is part of a national research project at GEPI to track reproductive and sexual health in post-Dobbs  America. GEPI plans to conduct annual assessments going forward.

“California has been a leader in advancing women’s sexual and reproductive health for decades, and the data shows that pregnant people and babies in California and other states supportive of reproductive freedom have healthier outcomes than they do in states banning abortion,” said Nancy L. Cohen, President at GEPI. “We are tracking the impacts of women losing autonomy over their bodies. We expect the divide between states to widen, as more states enact and enforce abortion bans and deny people basic reproductive healthcare. The sad reality is that the end of the constitutional right to abortion has created two very different Americas for pregnant people and their babies.” 

Overall, the report finds that California has excellent outcomes on measures of women’s reproductive health and well-being but it can do better, especially with equity considerations.

  • California has the lowest maternal mortality rate among states reporting data. California mothers are 5x as likely to survive pregnancy and childbirth as mothers living in a state that banned abortion. Among California Latinas, who make up nearly 4 in 10 California women, maternal mortality rates are a third of the national average and a fifth of rates found in Texas.
  • California teens are half as likely to become mothers compared to their peers in states that have banned abortion. In California, API teens have the lowest birth rate while Latina teens have the highest. Yet, compared to Latina teens in banned states, Latina teens in California are half as likely to give birth. Compared to peers in supportive states, California Latinas are the least likely to give birth as teens. 
  • With a neonatal mortality rate of 2.8 deaths per 1,000 live births, California is among the top ten best performing states overall. Among all states, California ranks 6th for the survival of Latino babies and only 15th for the survival of Black babies.
  • Women in California are half as likely to lack health insurance compared to women living in banned states. However, California ranks in the bottom half among the 22 supportive states on health coverage rates. 
  • Serious equity concerns remain. The neonatal mortality rate for Black babies is 2x as high as that for California babies overall. Latina women in California are more likely to give birth during their teen years and are less likely to have health insurance, compared to other racial/ethnic groups in the state.

“The right to abortion is essential to ensuring pregnant people can decide if, when, and with whom to have a family. States hostile to abortion are, in fact, hostile to the basic rights of pregnant people. It’s just that simple and that horrifying,” said Angela Vasquez-Giroux, Vice President of Communications and Research of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “California offers hope for other states. Even in post-Dobbs America, we can advance women’s health by defending reproductive freedom and protecting the right to abortion care.”

“California is fortunate to have leaders committed to ensuring reproductive health care access in the face of actions that deteriorate our nation’s progress toward equality,” said Holly Martinez, Executive Director of the California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls. “Access to safe and effective abortion services is a critical component of reproductive health care and a fundamental human right. I’m proud of the work California is doing to be a sanctuary state for reproductive freedom. This report reveals how vital our work remains, especially for women of color who are disproportionately impacted by anti-choice policies.”

“The data is indisputable. Health outcomes are much better in California and other states where abortion rights are protected,” said Chantel Johnson, Senior Director of External Affairs at GEPI. “Most women and girls live in states that ban or restrict abortion – 44 million Americans and counting. This is why we are dedicated to researching and reporting on reproductive health and well-being in the post-Dobbs era. As California becomes a sanctuary for reproductive freedom, the need for refuge is clear.”

The release of the California-focused report follows the January publication of GEPI’s The State of Reproductive Health in the United States. Analyzing data on all 50 states and the District of Columbia between 2015 and 2021, the national report revealed the following.

  • Twenty nine states ban or restrict abortion care and 22 states support reproductive freedom, as of December 2022.
  • All states that support abortion rights have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which has played a critical role in expanding access to no-cost birth control as well as prenatal and postnatal care. 
  • Six in 10 women – 7 in 10 Black women – live in states that ban abortion or limit reproductive freedom. 
  • Mothers living in states that ban abortion were up to 3x as likely to die during pregnancy, childbirth, or soon after giving birth. Babies born in banned states were 30% more likely to die in their first month of life. 
  • Black women were almost 3x as likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth, or right after giving birth as White women. Black babies were more than 2x as likely to die in their first month of life compared to white babies.
  • 1 in 4 teens live in states that ban abortion.