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Researchers release findings from study looking at support gaps for pregnant Hoosiers

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A new study underlines the gaps in support for pregnant Hoosiers. CREDIT: Creative Commons/arteidamjeshtri

As Indiana lawmakers work on legislation to restrict abortion access in Indiana, many activists and advocates have asked what support will be provided to people forced to carry pregnancies to term.

One study through the Indiana University Richard Fairbanks School of Public Health titled “Ask the Women” spoke to people in zip codes with high infant mortality rates in an effort to understand where they experienced gaps in care.

On Monday, researchers released some of their findings, outlining what interviewees told them about where they experienced the most need.

Specifically, researchers underlined the need for better accommodations in the workplace, rental and utility assistance throughout pregnancy and early parenthood, and coverage of costs related to prenatal care, birth, and postnatal care.

Erin Macey is a senior researcher for the Grassroots and Maternal Child Health Initiative, which oversees the study. She also testified in front of the Senate on Tuesday - noting that only 1 percent of the state budget surplus has been earmarked for parents and babies in SB2.

“A discount on diapers doesn’t help you very much if you have no income to buy diapers in the first place,” Macey said. “Home visiting is great but it’s better if you have a stable home to live in. These programmatic or minor adjustments are not enough.”

SB2, a companion bill to the abortion restrictions being considered in the Senate, is expected to put $50 million towards organizations and services for pregnant Hoosiers. Supporters of a separate bill in the House say they want to put upwards of $79 million towards families and babies.

In the case of both bills, however, advocates said that while those funds are good — they won’t be enough to meet the needs of parents or children.

Macey said of the 30 women the study interviewed every single one experienced some kind of gap in support.

“When we talk about the social determinants of health this is really getting at what that looks like in fine grain detail,” she said. “It looks like someone being hospitalized and not being able to pay their rent, it looks like someone being fired for attending their prenatal visits. All of this affects women’s ability to remain financially stable and meet their basic needs during pregnancy.”

According to Macey, a vast majority of the participants in the study worked over the course of their pregnancy. Roughly half of the participants experienced “significant interruptions” in their ability to do work.

“Many of our participants were pushed out of work,” she said. “Either because they couldn’t receive really basic accommodations and have bathroom breaks or go to prenatal visits.”

Often, she said, those employment problems would exacerbate financial stress among interviewees.

Across the study, Macey said she interviewed four women who experienced homelessness during their pregnancy including one interviewee who was evicted.

“Our capacity to handle people’s housing needs is an important area to look at, especially in light of some emerging research showing a strong link between housing instability and poor birth outcomes,” she said.

Speaking on her own behalf — Macey said no amount of additional support makes it ok to take away abortion access.

“There is no amount of support that would make it OK to take away that right and those choices,” she said. “This isn’t an equation where you can load in a bunch of supports and then that makes it ok to take this choice away.”

The House and Senate are expected to resume work on their respective bills on Thursday.