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A Supreme Court ruling restricting access to abortion could harm the economy and well-being of women

Providing Americans with a comprehensive range of reproductive health options is good for the economy and financial security of women and their families.

Outside the Supreme Court after the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, a June 2016 abortion case in Texas. (Adam Fagen / Flickr)The conversation

This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on December 1, 2021 in a case that could lead to a judgment overturning Roe v. Wade.

But reproductive health is not all about abortion, despite all the attention that is given to the procedures. It’s also about access to family planning services, contraception, sex education and much more, which have also been threatened in recent years.

Such access enables women to control the timing and size of their families so that they can have children when they are financially secure and emotionally ready to complete their education and advance in the workplace. After all, having kids is expensive and typically costs nearly $ 15,000 a year for a middle-class family. In low-income working families, childcare costs alone can consume more than a third of income.

For this reason, providing Americans with a comprehensive range of reproductive health options is good for business, and it is vital to the financial security of women and their families. As a law professor representing people at risk of poverty, I believe that the opposite not only jeopardizes women’s physical health, but also their economic well-being.

The Economics of Contraception

This was recognized by a majority in the Supreme Court in 1992, and in its Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey noted:

“The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive life.”

But in recent years the right to control their reproductive health has become increasingly illusory for many women, especially the poor.

Conservative attacks on birth control are escalating even though 99 percent of sexually active women of childbearing age have consumed some form of it at least once.

Given their focus on restricting access to abortion, one might assume that conservative politicians are in favor of policies that help women avoid unwanted pregnancies. But conservative attacks on birth control are escalating even though 99 percent of sexually active women of childbearing age have used some form of it, such as an intrauterine device, patch, or pill at least once.

In addition to the generally recognized health and autonomy benefits for women, contraception directly powers the economy. In fact, research shows that access to the pill is responsible for a third of women’s wage increases since the 1960s.

And this benefit also applies to their children: children of mothers with access to family planning benefit from a 20 to 30 percent increase in their own income over the course of their lives and increase their graduation rates.

Unsurprisingly, in a 2016 survey, 80 percent of women said birth control was positive for their lives, including 63 percent saying it reduced stress and 56 percent said it helped them keep working.

Differences in access

Nonetheless, there are class differences in access to contraception, as evidenced by differences in the rate of unwanted pregnancies in 2011, the latest available data.

While the overall rate fell this year from 51 percent in 2008 to 45 percent, the number of women living at or below the poverty line was also down, but five times as high as that of women in the highest income bracket.

One reason for this inequality is the cost of birth control, especially for the most effective and long-lasting forms. For example, it typically costs women over $ 1,000 for an IUD and procedure to place it, which is about the same as a full-time monthly wage for a minimum wage worker with no insurance.

It typically costs over $ 1,000 for an IUD and procedure to place it, which is roughly the equivalent of a full-time monthly wage for a minimum wage worker with no insurance. Publicly funded family planning only covers 54 percent of the need.

These costs are significant because the average American woman has about two children and will therefore require contraception for at least three decades of her life. Unfortunately, publicly funded family planning only meets 54 percent of needs, and these funding streams are constantly under attack by conservatives.

Unsurprisingly, health insurance makes a difference and women with coverage are far more likely to use contraception. Yet around 6.2 million women who need contraception do not have insurance coverage.

In addition, this coverage may be denied to millions of workers and their dependents who work for employers who raise a religious or moral objection, according to a 2020 Supreme Court ruling.

Sex education and the economic ladder

Another key to reproductive health – and one that is not discussed enough – is sex education for teenagers.

For years the public has spent up to $ 110 million a year on abstinence-only programs that not only fail to lower teenage birth rates, but also reinforce gender stereotypes and are full of misinformation. Low-income minority youth are particularly vulnerable to these programs.

Teens with no knowledge of their sexual health are more likely to get pregnant and work less, propelling them to the bottom of the economic ladder.

Access to abortion

Then there is the issue of abortion. Let’s start with the cost.

Half of women who have an abortion pay more than a third of their monthly income for the procedure.

The longer a woman has to wait – either because state law requires it, or because she needs to save the money, or both – the cost increases significantly.

Studies show that women who do not have access to an abortion are three times more likely to fall into poverty than women who have had an abortion.

In addition to the financial burden, many states are enacting laws designed to restrict access to abortion. These laws hit women on low incomes particularly hard. Since Roe’s decision, states have introduced 1,320 restrictions on abortion, including waiting times, mandatory counseling, and burdensome restrictions on clinics. In 2021 alone, states passed 90 such laws.

Hyde Change and Health

Another way US abortion policies exacerbate economic inequality, especially for women of color, is to ban government funding.

This has been so since the 1976 Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal Medicaid funds from being used for abortion except in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Medicaid’s denial of abortion coverage for poor women contributes to unwanted birth rates, which are seven times higher in poor women than in high-income women.

When Roe v. Wade being overturned by the Supreme Court, poor women would be hit hardest. Women who are denied abortions are more likely to fall into poverty, become unemployed and turn to public aid.

In contrast, economists have found that legalizing abortion resulted in improved educational, employment and income outcomes for women as well as their children.

Politicians cannot promise to stimulate the economy while restricting access to abortion, birth control and sex education. America’s economic health and women’s reproductive health are interrelated.

This is an updated version of an article originally published on April 27, 2016.

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