BMJ 2022; 378
Published 26 July 2022
Agnes Arnold Forster, research fellow
In October 1971, the New York Times reported a decline in maternal death rate.1 Just 15 months earlier, the state had liberalised its abortion law. David Harris, New York’s deputy commissioner of health, speaking to the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, attributed the decline—by more than half—to the replacement of criminal abortions with safe, legal ones. Previously, abortion had been the single leading cause of maternity related deaths, accounting for around a third. A doctor in the audience who said he was from a state “where the abortion law is still archaic,” thanked New York for its “remarkable job” and expressed his gratitude that there was a place he could send his patients and know they would receive “safe, excellent care.” Harris urged other states to follow the example set by New York and liberalise their abortion laws.