Saturday marked the 49th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court ruling that granted women the right to a safe and legal abortion. While the constitutional right to bodily autonomy has been repeatedly affirmed, a case currently before the Supreme Court has jeopardized reproductive rights. A ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which has the power to eliminate women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health, is the most serious threat to women’s reproductive freedom in decades.
This will certainly have consequences for the individual action of women. But the economic impacts of restrictive laws that limit women’s freedom to choose if and when to have a child are often overlooked.
Access to safe and legal abortion empowers people to make decisions that are good for them and their financial security. These decisions have lifelong economic consequences, not only for those directly affected, but also for their families and communities. Being able to delay motherhood for a year thanks to access to legal abortion has increased women’s wages by an average of 11%. Access to abortion expanded women’s career opportunities, including a greater likelihood of entering a professional role, by almost 40 percentage points. And studies show that access to abortion increases women’s likelihood of graduating from college by 72%. The effect was even greater for black women, whose odds of completing college nearly tripled.
Abortion access not only shapes the economic outcomes of the pregnant person, but also the economic circumstances in which children grow up. who were able to abort in time. After the legalization of safe abortion, the percentage of children growing up in poverty decreased and future life outcomes improved, including increased college attendance rates.
Systemic racial inequality has led to widespread health disparities. For example, barriers to health care and discrimination have resulted in three times higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths among black women than among white women. Restricting access to reproductive health care will further exacerbate these longstanding inequalities. In contrast, access to safe abortion has improved the economic outcomes of black women to a higher level than that of white women, helping to reduce racial economic disparities and reducing black maternal mortality by 30-40%.
If the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade, which is the likely outcome of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, abortion would likely quickly become illegal in 22 states. Clinics would close and more than 40% of women of childbearing age would have to travel an average of 279 miles – compared to 35 miles – to access comprehensive reproductive care. Additionally, all 22 states are concentrated in the South and Midwest and are disproportionately disadvantaged economically, so the financial burden of accessing care and securing transportation, housing, and childcare children – because the majority of women who seek an abortion already have children – would further exacerbate the geographical situation. inequality, strain household budgets and limit economic opportunities. As things stand, unnecessary restrictions on women seeking abortions, restrictions that have no basis in medical science and that jeopardize women’s health and well-being, are costing local economies $105 billion dollars a year and hamper economic growth.
Protecting the right to a safe and legal abortion guarantees women the freedom to make the right decision for themselves and their families. And the evidence clearly shows what people faced with this difficult decision already know: the opportunity to abort has far-reaching economic consequences. That’s why it’s best left to individuals to make the decision that’s right for them, their families, and their future.
Congressman Don Beyer represents the 8th congressional district.