Being Denied an Abortion Limits Women’s Economic Opportunities: NPR


The abortion debate doesn’t usually focus on economics. But if Roe v. Wade is canceled, many women have denied that the procedure will face huge financial consequences. NPR’s Jennifer Ludden reports.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Like most women seeking an abortion, Brittany Mostiller was already having children when she unexpectedly became pregnant again.

BRITTANY MOSTILLER: I had two young daughters, both under the age of 5, who shared a two-bedroom apartment with my sister.

LUDDEN: And she had just been fired from her night job as a receptionist for Greyhound buses.

MOSTILLER: All my unemployment, you know, benefits had to go towards rent, trying to figure out utilities. I’m not even sure I had a cell phone at the time – or if it did, it was definitely on and off.

LUDDEN: Mostiller was worried about finding another job during her pregnancy. Most importantly, she didn’t want to sacrifice the well-being of her two children by having a third that she simply couldn’t afford. In the end, she couldn’t afford an abortion either. And in Illinois at that time, 15 years ago, it wasn’t covered by Medicaid. Shortly after giving birth to a third daughter, she started working as a cashier but could only work 20 hours a week.

MOSTILLER: Like, defaulting on student loans that I was browsing.

LUDDEN: Then she defaulted on credit card payments. At one point, she juggled three jobs trying to make it all work. Mostiller’s concerns about poverty are widely shared by women seeking abortions and for good reason, says Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College. She says a large body of research shows that being able to access an abortion gives a major boost to women’s economic prospects.

CAITLIN MYERS: By enabling them, in turn, to get more education, to enter more professional careers, to avoid poverty and also to provide those same economic benefits to the children they raised more late.

LUDDEN: In the abortion case before the Supreme Court, Myers led an amicus brief by 154 economists. But she says their findings appear to have been ignored. In fact, Judge Samuel Alito’s leaked draft opinion cites arguments from abortion opponents that it’s now easier to get benefits like paid time off. Myers says that’s just not true for most women seeking an abortion.

MYERS: This population of women is disproportionately poor, does not have access to paid parental leave, does not have access to affordable child care even though they can schedule child care, because many of these women work in what is called shift work with very irregular hours which make obtaining childcare very difficult.

LUDDEN: Of course, opponents of abortion see this all differently. When Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently told a Senate panel that overthrowing Roe would set women back decades, she drew that reprimand from South Carolina Republican Tim Scott.


TIM SCOTT: Did you say ending a child’s life is good for labor force participation?

LUDDEN: He said it was hard to frame the painful reality of abortion that way. More…


SCOTT: I’ll just say that as a guy raised by a black woman in abject poverty, I’m grateful to be here as a United States Senator.

LUDDEN: But her success is not the norm when those who seek an abortion are denied an abortion. Economist Jason Lindo of Texas A&M University says the financial fallout extends well into the lives of the women’s children.

JASON LINDO: There is a tremendous amount of empirical literature showing that there are adverse effects on the outcomes of these children. As they get older, they are less likely to go on to higher education themselves. They are more likely to be involved in criminal activities and have lower adult incomes.

LUDDEN: He says cutting access to abortion for more people would mean widening already stark economic disparities for generations to come.

Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.

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