We know this, because several studies have told us so, over the years. And yet the data and results are contradictory.
To learn more about the connection between reproductive rights and women’s progress, the post-Roe debate and its aftermath, I spoke with Caitlin Myers, a professor of economics at Middlebury College and one of the economists behind the amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court. in 2021 what makes it so is highlighting years of research.
Clara Ferreira Marques: Anti-abortion advocates – including the State of Mississippi – argue that women can thrive without abortion rights. Your work shows the opposite.
Caitlin Myers: It has been very disappointing to see the court say that it is difficult to know how abortion affects people’s lives. In fact, this is a well-studied question, with an extensive, rigorous and evolving literature.
We have the answers to these questions because of the situation where there has been a sudden change in the abortion population, which gives us the opportunity to compare what happens to a group that is experiencing a change in opportunities and another group that is not – a natural experiment. . The first significant one came in the early 1970s, when five states and the District of Columbia legalized abortion a few years before the Roe decision. You can look into the data and see how it affects people’s lives. Economists who studied the period say it reduced the proportion of women who became young mothers by a third, and the proportion of women who married young by a fifth.
If she has an abortion to prevent an illegitimate birth, what happens? Well, they’re more likely to go to college, they’re more likely to finish college, they’re more likely to go into professional or managerial jobs. They earn more, they avoid poverty – not only for themselves, but also for the children they continue to have.
CFM: There is also the Turnaway Study which has been going on for years, which has followed and compared what happened to a group of women who sought abortions, some who were accepted and some who were denied due to medical age restrictions.
CM: I admit that I was initially skeptical of the research design. What events caused the abortionist to delay? Maybe the person was already experiencing a lot of poverty, a lot of instability, so the consequences would seem worse? But the researchers overcame the problem, which made the study important. The researchers took a smart approach by taking these women and comparing them to their Experian credit reports, which are the most accurate measure of their financial situation. If my concern was founded, then what we would have seen was that the two groups looked different, but that was not the case at all. Their financial circumstances were similar until the crucial moment when she became unplanned and requested an abortion.
The high economic impact of rejected women is striking. They saw an 80% increase in bad credit events such as bankruptcy, compared to women who did not. It’s a compelling result even if it’s not really surprising, because we already know how closely related fertility is to women’s wealth.
CFM: The economic impact of restrictions is most visible, of course, for those most vulnerable.
CM: One of the important things to understand is that repealing Roe does not eliminate access to abortion. It makes a big difference in abortion. What will happen is that there will be many women seeking abortions who will travel hundreds or thousands of miles to get to those who are left. You’ll see women flocking to illegal countries to seek the abortions they need. But not everyone can do that.
We have conducted several recent environmental experiments that have allowed us to estimate how women respond to travel. The first happened in Texas where half of the providers closed overnight in 2013 in compliance with state law, another in Wisconsin. I would estimate that about three-quarters of the people for whom the ban increases walking distance will still find a way to get there. Not because it is easy, but because it is the most important thing in their life. About a quarter will not, and that quarter will be the most vulnerable, the most oppressed, the most disadvantaged. They will be infinitely younger, and infinitely more women of color. They’re locked out, and it’s that locked-in group that’s really bearing the brunt of the Roe amendment.
CFM: Given the volume of evidence, why are economic and social issues often overlooked? Why can the State of Mississippi say that women can have it all, when they clearly cannot?
CM: Maybe part of what’s going on is a failure to imagine what it’s like to be a poor mother in America, especially a poor mother of color, in the Deep South, raising children. Mississippi emphasized that the advancement of public policy has now given women the opportunity to balance their financial lives. Mississippi and its advocates made a case, for example pointing to Justice Amy Coney Barrett [a mother of seven]to the attorney general of Mississippi [Lynn Fitch, a mother of three] as examples of women who were mothers and who held successful and demanding jobs. I thought this was very rude and ignorant of the reality of the class.
I was raised by a single mother in the rural south who struggled to make ends meet. When I was in my 30s, I had two young children and my husband died in a car accident. Suddenly I found myself a single mother, just like my mother. Except it wasn’t the same – because I was a talented woman with the money to hire a nanny. I was able to take care of children of the highest quality. And even though my husband’s death was very painful, financially and personally, having that money made a big difference. You must realize the incredible difference between a working woman who has money, and one who doesn’t. People make [the Mississippi] I just don’t understand that a poor woman who works shifts can’t afford a nanny, or $10,000 for children a year.
People may disagree on moral issues, but reasonable people cannot deny how motherhood and women’s economic life are closely related. And since it was difficult, the court just wanted to ignore it. When 150 economists, leading names in our field, came up with sufficient scientific evidence, which was completely ignored in many minds. It really upsets me, because I believe in evidence-based principles.
CFM: Economics can also be part of the answer here, avoiding the need for abortion in the first place and reducing the harmful consequences for women who are forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.
CM: There are many reasons why women have abortions, and not all of them are economic. But many people want to have an abortion because they are not well financially, they are worried that they will not be able to take care of a child, usually another child. These are people who know very well how the security of the American people is failing. And the policies that we can put in place to help them are the policies that will help women who will have children because of these restrictions. It includes, first, increasing access to travel, especially paid vacation. Expanding access to health care, expanding access to children. When I look to provide financial assistance, I refer to the great success of the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) and the child tax credit, so there is a need to continue and expand those programs.
But I also emphasize that most of the investment we have made in the last 30 years has focused on the working poor, and has not encouraged the very poor, who are not working. When a woman has a baby, it is a time when it is difficult to work. Social security benefits vary by state, but almost all are inadequate. If a woman lives in Mississippi and is considering going out to earn money to support herself and an infant while she is unable to work, her monthly benefit, for a family of three, is $260. If they have another child, Mississippi also has a family cap. Instead the government should focus on anti-poverty programs, paid leave, early childhood education funding. All these can help poor families.
CFM: Do you see a big impact on the economy, if people and companies decide to be independent because of the policies of countries against abortion?
CM: I hear a lot of liberals in the Northeast, where I live, predicting that people will start moving because of the restrictions. I think it remains to be seen. I’m certainly not so sure. As someone from the rural Deep South, I feel like they don’t really know that many people in restricted areas support them. And for a company to consider relocating, this can be divisive and politically difficult. What I see is that most companies seem to want to stay away from this as much as possible. So far, the only companies that have come out and supported the abortion movement, are talking about workers who are paid with benefits – it’s not a group that can’t come out. They may appreciate the help, but the people who cannot leave are the poorest. Will Walmart offer travel benefits to its part-time, hourly workers? Is it McDonald’s? It is the same for women to choose where they live. Abortion, by its very nature, is not something that women plan for. It’s an unplanned pregnancy or the tragic news of an unborn child – you weren’t planning. Perhaps, however, if the repeal of Roe further reduces the quality of care for miscarriages and pregnancy complications, then this could change the concept of space for women. There’s a lot of fear about how this would prevent medical care for pregnant women who are experiencing complications, and I think if people’s biggest fears come true, it would be very dangerous to be a pregnant woman in the Deep South.
CFM: We talk a lot about the economic impact of women, but what about the impact on their current and future children?
CM: Well, the best way is to think about this very carefully, because this is where the ethical considerations become complicated and controversial. First, almost half of women seeking abortions already have children. Those children are directly affected by the wealth of their mothers and their families. As well as the children these women can have when they are financially and financially stable. And we know that access to abortion reduced child poverty in the 70s and 80s.
The reason I say this is difficult because access to abortion reduces child poverty by reducing the number of children born into poverty. I don’t want to argue with the birth of their children. In fact, I would say that all children deserve to be wanted.
More from Bloomberg Opinion:
• Google Should Remove Abortion Questions Again: Parmy Olson
• A Look at the War on Abortion-Rights on the Poor: Rhonda Sharpe
• How Abortion Affects Black Women: Sarah Carmichael
This column does not reflect the views of the editorial team or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Clara Ferreira Marques is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and member of the foreign affairs and climate reporting committee. Previously, he worked for Reuters in Hong Kong, Singapore, India, UK, Italy and Russia.
More stories like this can be found at bloomberg.com/opinion