The Economic Impacts of an Abortion Ban - Vested

Last Friday, June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court made a landmark decision to overturn Roe v Wade, the federal legislation in place to protect pregnant women’s right to choose to have an abortion. Since then, at least 22 states have either passed or introduced new laws that would effectively ban abortion, and more states are expected to follow suit.

Of course, it’s impossible to measure the full impact of a decision that was made just a few days ago, but research – detailed in an amicus brief signed by more than 150 economists – indicates that this decision will have deep and long-lasting impacts on our entire economy. 

In other words: if you think the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade will only affect pregnant women, think again. This isn’t simply a social issue. It always has been and will continue to be a financial issue – with implications for personal, public, and private finance.

A quicker path to poverty

Abortion rights are at the center of economic stability, security, and mobility. Without the ability to choose to terminate an unplanned pregnancy, millions of Americans would face crippling economic circumstances and poorer qualities of life for themselves and their children. The main reason pregnant women and their partners choose to get an abortion is for economic reasons. In a 2004 survey, when patients were asked why they chose to have an abortion, 74% said that having a child would interfere with their education, work or ability to care for dependents, and 73% said they couldn’t afford to have the child. 

There are also direct correlations between abortion denials and household poverty. According to the findings of the Turnaway Study, women who were denied abortions (as opposed to those who had the procedure) had a higher chance of household poverty lasting at least four years. They were also less likely to be able to afford basic living expenses for their family, like food and housing. The study also found that women who were denied abortions faced increased amounts of debt, lower credit scores, and negative financial histories, which would limit their access to economic opportunities in the future.

The same is true of men who had partners that were denied an abortion. A study, published by Dr. Bethany Everett, a professor of sociology at the University of Utah, found that young men whose partners had an abortion were nearly four times more likely to graduate from college than those whose partners gave birth. Additionally, young people who have abortions to postpone pregancy by at least a year saw an 11% uptick in hourly wages, according to the research outlined in the amicus brief by economists.

The rising costs of childcare

Raising a child in America is increasingly expensive. According to Investopedia, the average amount spent on raising a child born in 2022 is $272,049 – and that’s not including the costs of higher education. To break this cost down on an annual basis, the “Demanding Change” report found that the national average annual cost for raising a child would consume more than 10% of the median household income for a married couple, and more than 35% of the median income of a single parent. And that’s only for one child. Meanwhile, low-income Americans are five times more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy.

In today’s inflationary economy, childcare costs are only getting more unaffordable. Studies have shown that the costs of childcare have been outpacing inflation by more than 3% year over year, resulting in a growing wealth gap that eventually forces more women to leave the workforce.

The loss of women in the workforce… again

Alongside the rapidly rising costs of childcare, mothers who remain employed tend to make lower salaries and lack fewer opportunities for career advancement. One study found that a woman’s income drops by 4% for every time she gives birth. Women living in states with “TRAP” (Targeted Restrictions on Abortion Providers) laws are less likely to move between jobs and into higher-paying roles. Ultimately, for mothers fighting to stay above the poverty line, it often makes more economic sense to leave the workforce.

All of this comes in the wake of a global pandemic response that resulted in women leaving the workforce in unprecedented amounts to stay home to take care of children or other dependents. Now, as the country faces a volatile talent environment and a potential recession, the question begs to be answered: how significant is the economic impact of the loss of even more women in the workforce due to lack of abortion rights and protections? 

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), in partnership with the Center on the Economics of Reproductive Health (CERH), released new research that estimates the cost of TRAP laws on state economies to be around $105 billion per year by reducing workforce participation and earnings levels. The same research found that on a national scale, if TRAP laws were to be eliminated across the states, an additional 505,000 women between ages 15-44 would enter the workforce and earn about $3 billion annually, currently employed women between ages 15-44 would gain $101.8 billion in higher earnings annually, and the national GDP would be nearly 0.5 percent greater.

Of course, these are only estimates… but the numbers are still quite staggering. In any case, research heavily suggests that by eliminating access to abortions, we are eliminating long-term access to economic opportunities for young parents and their families, and likely creating further poverty. This Supreme Court decision will have vast economic impacts, and low-income women and their partners will bear the brunt of the immediate financial burden. 

There are funds and organizations for those who are in a position to donate to support women’s access to abortion, especially for those in states with TRAP laws so that individuals may travel for healthcare procedures out of state. Here’s a list of a few: 

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