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Health Equity


INTRODUCTION: Reproductive policies' impact on disparities in neonatal outcomes is understudied. Thus, we aimed to assess whether an index of reproductive autonomy is associated with black-white disparities in preterm birth (PTB) and low birthweight (LBW).

METHODS: We used publicly available state-level PTB and LBW data for all live-births among persons aged 15-44 from January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2018. The independent measure was an index of state laws characterizing each state's reproductive autonomy, ranging from 5 (most restrictive) to 43 (most enabling), used continuously and as quartiles. Linear regression was performed to evaluate the association between both the index score (continuous, primary analysis; quartiles, secondary analysis) and state-level aggregated black-white disparity rates in PTB and LBW per 100 live births.

RESULTS: Among 10,297,437 black (n=1,829,051 [17.8%]) and white (n=8,468,386 [82.2%]) births, rates of PTB and LBW were 6.46 and 8.24 per 100, respectively. Regression models found that every 1-U increase in the index was associated with a -0.06 (confidence interval [CI]: -0.10 to -0.01) and -0.05 (CI: -0.08, to -0.01) per 100 lower black-white disparity in PTB and LBW rates (p<0.05, p<0.01), respectively. The most enabling quartiles were associated with -1.21 (CI: -2.38 to -0.05) and -1.62 (CI: -2.89 to -0.35) per 100 lower rates of the black-white disparity in LBW, compared with the most restrictive quartile (both p<0.05).

CONCLUSION: Greater reproductive autonomy is associated with lower rates of state-level disparities in PTB and LBW. More research is needed to better understand the importance of state laws in shaping racialized disparities, reproductive autonomy, and birth outcomes.

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