Home Credit report As Abortion Rights Look Set to Tumble, Women’s Economic Prospects Darken

As Abortion Rights Look Set to Tumble, Women’s Economic Prospects Darken

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But the continuation of those gains is threatened by the likelihood that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe in the coming days, ushering in a new reality where abortions will be banned or nearly banned in about half of US states. This possibility threatens the economic gains that the Supreme Court majority attributed to Roe two decades later, when she wrote in Planned Parenthood v Casey in 1992 that abortion rights had helped give women “the ability … to participate equally in economic and social life”. of the nation. »

If Roe is overthrown, experts and advocates have said many women — especially women of color and those with low incomes — would take a significant economic hit, and the nation could as well. According to a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit advocacy group, existing state restrictions on abortion already cost the economy about $105 billion a year, including by reducing the number of working women.

“In 50 years, we’ve come a long way, but we’re not there yet,” said Leng Leng Chancey, executive director of 9to5, a national organization that advocates for the economic security of women, especially those of color. . “It’s definitely going to set us back a lot.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, an economist and former chair of the Federal Reserve, recently warned that unseating Roe “would have very detrimental effects on the economy and set women back decades.”

“It has enabled many women to complete their studies. This increased their earning potential. It has allowed women to plan and balance their families and careers,” she told the Senate Banking Committee last month, days after the release of a draft Supreme Court opinion in majority in a Mississippi abortion case that would overthrow Roe. “There are many research studies…examining the economic impacts of access or lack of access to abortion. And it clearly shows that denying women access to abortion increases their chances living in poverty or needing public assistance.

Abortion opponents have questioned Roe’s extensive economic impact research, calling it inconclusive. And in the draft opinion drafted by Judge Samuel Alito, he argued that it was difficult for the court to assess “the effect of the right to abortion on society and in particular on the lives of women. “.

Experts who have studied the economic effects of abortion rights have said the results are conclusive.

“We find clear evidence of economic harm when people are denied abortion,” said Diana Greene Foster, research director at the University of California San Francisco’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program and author of a historical study. Repealing the federal abortion law will cause additional financial hardship for women in states that ban the procedure, forcing them to travel hundreds of miles in many cases to obtain one, she said.

“It’s going to be a lot more expense and time off and child care costs for people who can afford abortions elsewhere,” Foster said of women in those states. “But for people who can’t afford it, it’s going to be years of economic hardship.”

Although numerous studies have extensively examined the effects of abortion on factors such as fertility rates and women’s labor force participation, Foster said it is difficult to study the direct financial impact on women of a refusal of abortion. Women often seek abortions when they fear they won’t have enough money to raise a child, so it doesn’t make sense to compare them to a control group of women who go ahead with a pregnancy, probably because these women feel economically more secure.

But Foster found a solution: Look at the women who sought an abortion when their pregnancy was just within a clinic’s gestational age limit to perform the procedure, either because of state laws or of its own policies. Some of these women showed up just under the line and had an abortion while others were just over the line and were turned away.

In what’s called the “Turnaway Study,” Foster’s team recruited about 1,000 pregnant women at 30 facilities in 21 states between 2008 and 2010. The researchers followed the women — those who had abortions and those who didn’t – for five years, with some participants dropping out along the way. The data led to several research papers and revealed that women refusing abortion suffered an economic blow that lasted for years.

“Before the pregnancies, these two groups of women were really similar,” said Sarah Miller, an assistant professor of business economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, who collaborated with Foster on a study taking into account the financial data of the participants’ years. ‘ credit reports. “Then when women were denied abortions and ended up giving birth, there was this kind of spike in financial problems.”

Their article, updated in January, found that the women who were unable to obtain an abortion had financial problems that lasted throughout the five-year study period. They included a 78% increase in unpaid bills and an 81% increase in negative credit scores, such as bankruptcies and evictions, compared to women who were able to have an abortion.

“It really seemed like they were on a different trajectory at this point and it was a consistently tough financial trajectory for these women,” Miller said.

The results demonstrated the so-called “motherhood penalty,” a long-studied financial hit for women who have children. And the study is among several from the 1990s that show the negative economic impact when women have unplanned births.

“There is a mountain of evidence,” said Caitlin Myers, professor of economics at Middlebury College, who asked 153 other economists to sign with her an amicus brief they filed in the Mississippi case. describing the research. “These are really common and accepted facts.”

The brief was a rebuttal of one filed by a coalition of “pro-life feminist groups,” as well as 240 academics and professionals who oppose abortion rights. They questioned the validity of the research and the court majority’s statement in the Casey decision that abortion rights had helped give women economic equality.

“The claims of the Casey plurality and abortion advocates that unrestricted access to abortion is a necessary condition and a major contributor to women’s economic and social advancements simply cannot be substantiated,” he said. worth the coalition.

Mississippi officials, who defend the state’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, made a similar argument in court, saying improvements to maternity leave and other social services have improved the economic landscape of women since 1973.

“Roe suggested that, without abortion, unwanted children could ‘impose’ on women ‘a painful life and future,'” Mississippi state officials explained in a filing. “But many of the laws enacted since Roe – dealing with pregnancy discrimination, requiring time off, helping with childcare, etc. – facilitate women’s ability to pursue both professional success and a family life. rich.”

Julie Kashen, director of women’s economic justice at the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, said many women do not have access to benefits such as paid maternity or paid time off to care for children. a sick child, and services like childcare are often unaffordable. And a majority of lawmakers in states likely to ban abortion, as well as Republicans in Congress who oppose abortion rights, oppose expanding government assistance for child care, or demand paid sick and family leave.

“As a country, we have never invested in a comprehensive childcare and early learning system that truly meets the needs of mothers and children, so it remains very difficult to work and have a family. “, she said. “Having choices about it really makes a difference.”

The lack of social services is exacerbated for women of color, Chancey said.

“We are already in a crisis situation,” she said. “We have many working women, especially women of color, in low-wage hourly jobs and they don’t have access to paid time off.”

Miller said his study and others validated what researchers found anecdotally when talking to women seeking abortions. They worry about the lack of government services and workplace benefits, as well as the lack of money to raise an unplanned child.

“You can see why there are these financial hardships when there aren’t a lot of clear areas of support for these additional family obligations,” she said. There are negative economic effects of making it difficult for women to control when, if and how they have families.

Shirley Leung of Globe staff contributed to this report.


Jim Puzzanghera can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @JimPuzzanghera.