Dec. 29, 2022 – Restricted access to abortions may have increased the suicide risk among women in their reproductive years, a new study suggests. 

The study, published Wednesday in JAMA Psychiatry, examined suicide rates at the state level from 1974 to 2016 relative to the enforcement of a type of law called “targeted restrictions on abortion providers.” Collectively known as TRAP laws, they mandate clinics to meet requirements that critics say have no medical basis, such as offering exam rooms with precise dimensions or requiring doctors to have admitting privileges to hospitals.

Women who lived in one of 21 states that restricted access to abortions during that period had an increased suicide risk during their reproductive years, according to the study, conducted by researchers from the University of Pennsylvania.

Specifically, the analysis showed that suicide rates increased 5.8% among women ages 20 to 34 after their states enforced detailed restrictions on abortion clinics. 

“Stress is a key contributor to mental health burden and a major driver of increased suicide risk,” researcher and psychiatrist Ran Barzilay, MD, PhD, said in a news release.

In addition to looking at suicide rates prior to and during the laws’ enforcement, the researchers also used control comparisons of suicide among older women and deaths from another leading cause: motor vehicle accidents. Even after further controlling for demographic and economic factors such as race and unemployment status, the link between living in a state with TRAP laws and suicide remained.

“This association is robust -- and it has nothing to do with politics,” Barzilay said. “It’s all backed by the data.”

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young women, the researchers noted.

A companion editorial published with the study estimated that 127 suicides among young women in 2016 may be associated with the abortion restrictions. 

The findings are “cause for clinical concern" and “indicate the need for support and for mental health care" advances, Harvard University biostatistician Tyler VanderWeele, PhD, wrote in the editorial.

Show Sources


University of Pennsylvania: “Restricted abortion access linked to increased suicide risk in young women.”

JAMA Psychiatry: “Association Between State-Level Access to Reproductive Care and Suicide Rates Among Women of Reproductive Age in the United States,” “Abortion and Mental Health—Context and Common Ground.”


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