Oct. 13 (UPI) -- Women living in states with less restrictive reproductive rights policies are 7% less likely have low birth weight babies than those living in states with more stringent laws, according to an analysis published Tuesday by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The risk was 8% lower for Black women living in less-restrictive states, the data showed.
"Our study provides evidence that reproductive rights policies play a critical role in advancing maternal and child health equity," study co-author May Sudhinaraset, of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said in a statement.
Since the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, which effectively legalized abortion, states have had "substantial discretion" in creating policies governing whether Medicaid covers the costs of contraception or reproductive health care.
Some states have taken steps that effectively limit access to abortion services and other reproductive care, Sudhinaraset and her colleagues said.
Black women are more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than any other race group, experience more maternal health complications than White women and generally have lower quality maternity care, they said.
In addition, women of color are more likely to experience adverse birth outcomes.
Compared to infants of normal weight, low-birth-weight babies face many potential health complications, including infections early in life and long-term problems, such as delayed motor and social development or learning disabilities.
Sudhinaraset and her colleagues analyzed birth record data for the nearly 4 million births that occurred in the 50 states and Washington, D.C., in 2016, comparing reproductive rights policies and adverse birth outcomes in each state.
They also evaluated if the associations were different for women of color and immigrants.
The findings indicate that expanding reproductive rights may reduce the risk of low-birth weight, particularly for U.S.-born Black women, the researchers said.
"Important policy levers can and should be implemented to improve women's reproductive health overall, including increasing abortion access and mandatory sex education in schools," Sudhinaraset said.