The Devastating Impacts of State-led Abortion Bans

On September 28, 2022, I had the pleasure of delivering a roundtable discussion at The Uplift Connection’s 2022 Maternal and Infant Health Convening on the devastating impacts of state-led abortion bans. Factors were mapped using the socio-ecological model, included below, along with a list of references. I’m hopeful this post may spur greater research, especially on the mental health impacts of being denied an abortion on those of childbearing age (16-49).

Research on the connection between abortion legalization and women’s advancement is sound.

Abortion legalization under Roe was integral to women’s advancement in the United States. During a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen stated that “Roe v. Wade and access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helped lead to increased labor force participation. It enabled many women to finish school. That increased their earning potential. It allowed women to plan and balance their families and careers.”

Research confirms the positive effects of abortion legalization on a range of economic indicators, including labor force participation, educational attainment, earnings, and child poverty—with particularly notable gains for Black women.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe in 1973, women experienced a significant increase in labor force participation. The largest gains occurred in the decade and a half following Roe, during which women’s labor force participation grew at the fastest rate on record, including faster than during the 15 years prior to the Supreme Court’s decision. Equally important, the Roe framework helped to sustain these higher rates of labor force participation for the generations of women who followed.

Women’s educational attainment also grew under Roe. One study found that access to abortion for women facing early, undesired pregnancies increased the probability of their entering college by 41 percent and completing college by 71 percent. These positive effects were particularly pronounced for Black women experiencing early pregnancies. Access to abortion increased their probability of entering college by up to 200 percent.

Finally, Abortion legalization has also boosted women’s earnings. Women whose abortion care allowed them to delay an unplanned start to parenthood by one year saw an 11 percent increase in hourly wages later on in their careers.

Harms to women and families’ economic security, educational attainment, and health under abortion bans.

When women are denied access to abortion, it can negatively affect their economic security, educational attainment, and health and that of their families.

Research makes clear that when women do not have access to abortion care, they are more likely to suffer financially. Led by an interdisciplinary team, the Turnaway Study tracked two groups of women: one composed of those who had received abortion care, and the other composed of women who had been denied care. The study determined that women who were forced to carry a pregnancy to term experienced a wide range of negative financial consequences, including lower credit scores, increased debt, and more negative public financial records such as bankruptcies and evictions. In addition to the impact on women themselves, the study showed that these restrictions are associated with a greater likelihood of child poverty.

Additional studies have found that laws restricting access to abortion widened the gender pay gap for women of childbearing age by pushing them out of the labor force and into lower-paying jobs. In fact, one study found that abortion restrictions led to a drop of between 5 percent and 6.5 percent in average monthly salaries of women of childbearing age compared with the rest of the population. These decreases only compound the harms of the already unacceptable gender wage gap that hobbles women’s earnings and long-term wealth.

Socio-Ecological Model Factor Details:

Interruptions in education and high school and college attainment decreases competitiveness leading to barriers in higher-paying employment and decreasing ones attainment of livelihood. 

Denied insurance access to family planning decreases the use of family planning and contraceptives, leading to a lack of high-quality care, creating poor maternal health outcomes. 

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