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The Economic Pitfalls Of Restricting Abortion Access

The implications of restricting access to abortion extend to the economic realm.

CREDIT: Flickr user American Life League.

Emily Rooke-Ley, who works at Jane’s Due Process, is a guest blogger for Generation Progress and covers abortion. The views expressed below do not necessarily represent those of Generation Progress.

If, as many politicians have promised, Roe v. Wade were to be overturned or Planned Parenthood defunded, our economy will take a serious hit. Yes, women will most directly feel the impact. But the rest of our nation will suffer the aftermath.

“A woman’s reproductive years directly overlap with her time in school and the workforce, [so] she must be able to prevent unintended pregnancy in order to complete her education, maintain employment, and achieve economic security,” maintained a recent report by the Reproductive Health Technologies Project.

We know that a woman’s control over her own reproduction is critical to her participation in the workforce—the invention of the birth control pill has showed us this much. A multitude of studies conclude that access to oral contraceptives have historically and presently increased the likelihood for women to obtain higher education and entry into the workforce. One study found that from 1970 to 1990 its widespread use accounted for more than 30 percent of the increase of women in skilled careers.

A new longitudinal study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco followed women seeking abortion care at 30 facilities across the country. Half of the women received abortions (some presented at the clinic just a few days before the gestational limit and some were in their first trimester), and half were turned away because they presented at the clinic just a few days after the gestational limit. Both groups of women were on similar socio-economic footing before either terminating or continuing the pregnancy, yet just two years later, the women who wanted abortions but were unable to have them were three times as likely to be living below the federal poverty line as the women who had successfully obtained abortion care.

One in three women will have an abortion in her lifetime. Over two-thirds (69 percent) of women who seek abortions have incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Furthermore, 42 percent of women who seek abortions fall under the poverty line, which is just over $10,000 a year for a single woman with no children. This means that if abortion becomes illegal, or simply inaccessible, an enormous portion of our population will be at risk of sudden, unprecedented poverty. Imagine the economic impact.

The scariest part? This is actually a feasible reality. States are steadily chipping away at a woman’s right to choose, designing calculated and disingenuous tactics to make accessing abortion increasingly difficult. Primarily through TRAP laws, which significantly decrease the number of clinics, and state-mandated requirements, such as sonograms, counseling, and waiting periods, women must navigate a slew of logistical and financial barriers before terminating a pregnancy. Clinic appointments can often take up to a month, prices are steadily rising to keep up with costly clinic requirements (like ASCs), travel distances are long, and waiting periods require at least two days at the clinic.

Ironically, the number one reason for terminating a pregnancy is a lack of financial resources to carry a healthy pregnancy to term and raise a child. By increasing the financial burden of abortion so that it is out of reach for many women, we are forcing those who cannot even afford an abortion to instead bear a child—a cost that far outweighs that of an abortion, both financially and emotionally, for mother and for child.

According to ThinkProgress, “the process of obtaining an abortion could total up to $1,380 for a low-income single mother saddled with charges related to gas, a hotel stay, childcare, and taking time off work. For a middle-income woman living comfortably in a city with no children and public transit options to the clinic, meanwhile, those fees dropped to $593.”

This shocking disparity simply pushes those experiencing financial insecurity deeper into the cycle of poverty

In short, abortion is decidedly not just a women’s issue, but an economic crisis waiting to implode.

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