Jose Luis Magana/AP
Like most women seeking an abortion, Brittany Mostiller was already having children when she unexpectedly became pregnant. “I had two young girls under 5, who shared a two-bedroom apartment with my sister,” she says.
She had also just been fired from her night job as a hostess for Greyhound buses. His unemployment benefits were less than his salary there, and almost all of it went to rent and utilities. “I’m not even sure I had a cell phone back then,” she says. “If I did, it was definitely on and off,” to save money.
Mostiller feared finding another job during her pregnancy and then being able to take time off to care for a newborn. Most importantly, she knew how expensive it was to have a baby, and she didn’t want to sacrifice the well-being of her two children by having a third one she simply couldn’t afford.
In the end, she couldn’t afford an abortion either. And in Illinois at that time 15 years ago, abortion was not covered by Medicaid.
Mostiller continued her pregnancy and had to be hospitalized at 32 weeks and then induced a week later. Shortly after giving birth to a third daughter, she started working as a cashier but could only work 20 hours a week. His financial difficulties began to multiply.
“I defaulted on student loans that I navigated,” she says. She had studied to become a paralegal but left without a degree. Within about a year, she also defaulted on her credit card payment obligations, which eventually led to the garnishment of her meager checks. At one point, she juggled three jobs — one of them full-time — trying to make it all work. “It was definitely difficult.”
Since then, Mostiller has managed to improve her situation, ironically thanks to another unplanned pregnancy. The second time around, she discovered a local group that helps poor women pay for abortions, and she now works with the National Network of Abortion Funds. But her concerns about sinking further into poverty are widely shared by women who want abortions. And a lot of research backs them up.
Roe vs. Wade provided a natural experiment on the economic impacts of abortion
Before the Supreme Court legalized abortion with its Roe vs. Wade in power in 1973, five states and the District of Columbia had already authorized abortion for several years. Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College, says this provided researchers with a natural experiment to study the demographic and economic outcomes of women in these states compared to others, and then examine what happened after. . deer as well.
Myers says they found profound impacts and were able to document that they were unobtrusive to all the other changes happening in society at the time.
First, the legalization of abortion has dramatically reduced the number of women and girls who give birth – and marry – as teenagers. Access to abortion has also significantly boosted women’s economic prospects, “enabling them, in turn, to get more education, enter more professional careers, avoid poverty,” he said. said Myers. “And also providing those same economic benefits to the children they raised later.”
In the Mississippi abortion case before the Supreme Court, Myers led an amicus brief by 154 economists. But she says their findings appear to have been ignored.
During closing arguments in the case in December, Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights argued against Mississippi’s law banning nearly all abortions after 15 weeks. At one point, she said, “the data has been very clear over the past 50 years that abortion has been essential to women’s equal participation in society.” As she continued, Chief Justice John Roberts interrupted her to ask, “What kind of data is this?” And then interrupted again to say, “Well, putting that data aside…” and asked why 15 weeks was an inappropriate limit.
In his leaked draft opinion, Judge Samuel Alito notes that deerit is supporters say that without access to abortion, “women will not be able to compete with men in the workplace.” He then cites the “contradictory arguments of abortion rights opponents on modern developments”. These include, he writes, a change in attitude towards unmarried pregnant women, federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, and “that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases”.
But Myers says that’s just not true for most women seeking abortions, who are disproportionately poor and women of color.
“This population of women…don’t have access to paid parental leave, don’t have access to affordable child care,” she says. And even many of those who can get childcare find it difficult to schedule it because “a lot of these women work in what’s called shift work, with very irregular hours.”
The financial benefits extend to the next generation
Of course, opponents of abortion rights see this all differently. When Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently told a Senate panel that the reversal deer “would set women back decades,” she drew a reprimand from Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.
“Did you say ending a child’s life is good for labor force participation?” he asked pointedly. He said it was “insane” and “harsh” to frame the “painful reality” of abortion in this way.
“As a guy raised by a black woman in abject poverty,” he said, “I’m grateful to be here, as a United States Senator.”
But Scott’s success story is not the norm when those who seek abortions are denied abortions. Economist Jason Lindo of Texas A&M University says the financial fallout extends well into the lives of the women’s children.
“There is a huge empirical literature showing that there are adverse effects on the outcomes of these children,” he says. “As they get older, they’re less likely to achieve higher education themselves, they’re more likely to be involved in crime, to have lower adult incomes.”
Research on the economic fallout from abortion continues. The landmark Turnaway Study followed women for a decade and found that those who were denied abortions were four times more likely to live in poverty years later.
And economists have had more opportunity for “natural experiment” studies because Texas and a growing number of other states have strictly limited abortion in recent years. An analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research calculates that such measures cost national and local economies $105 billion a year by reducing women’s labor force participation and earnings.
Yet the Middlebury professor Myers says that if deer is reversed, “it’s not going to be a throwback to 1971.”
Based on what has happened so far, she estimates that while half of the states impose various abortion bans, about three-quarters of women seeking abortions in those states will still find a way to travel and to access abortion in another state. But these will largely be women of means, leading to “a dramatic increase in inequality of access”. Her own research last year found that even an increase in travel distance of up to 100 miles could prevent 20% of women from reaching a provider.
Myers calculates that the first year after deer was invalidated, approximately 100,000 low-income women would not be able to have an abortion. She says that number could be higher if more places restrict medical abortion by mail and if a backlog of women seeking help in other states leads to long delays.
And again, she and economist Lindo point out that the consequences don’t stop there but extend to the children the women already have or will have later. They say it is empirically clear that cutting abortion access for more women would mean widening already stark economic and racial disparities for generations to come.