Abortion and finances: The economic consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade

·6 min read

The repercussions of denying someone an abortion goes beyond just health. It can also lead to harmful financial outcomes for the individual.

On Friday, the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling which recognized abortion as a safe and legal procedure within the U.S.

Women who were denied a wanted abortion had almost four times greater odds of being below the Federal Poverty Level, according to the Turnaway Study, led by Dr. Diana Greene Foster, director of research at at ANSIRH (Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health).

Women also had three times greater odds of being unemployed after being denied an abortion than women who obtained one. They were also more likely to have trouble paying for basic living needs and more likely to use public assistance, according to Dr. Foster, who followed the people in the study for five years.

“The difference in economic well-being lasts for years,” Dr. Foster told Yahoo Finance. “It’s not just the immediate end of the pregnancy where the person is pregnant or has a newborn. The economic hardship lasts for years.”

The findings underscore the far-reaching economic consequences of Roe v. Wade being overturned, which now remains a frightening reality.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood Ohio chant at a pro-choice rally as the United States Supreme Court justices hear arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, in Cincinatti, Ohio, U.S., December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Megan Jelinger
Supporters of Planned Parenthood Ohio chant at a pro-choice rally as the United States Supreme Court justices hear arguments in the Mississippi abortion rights case Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health, in Cincinatti, Ohio, U.S., December 1, 2021. REUTERS/Megan Jelinger

Many women already experience some form of economic challenge at the time they seek an abortion, which can be the contributing factor to seeking the procedure in the first place. Not having the financial stability to care for one child, or for an additional child, is among the most common reason women seek an abortion, according to the study.

In addition, Dr. Foster mentioned individuals who were denied a wanted abortion were also more likely to be evicted, more likely to declare bankruptcy, and more likely have a higher amount of debt.

“It’s the people who don’t have a computer, don’t have a car, don’t have the money to travel, can’t take the time off work, can’t get childcare, it’s the most disadvantageous people who will end up giving birth instead of getting an abortion,” Foster said. “It is likely to be low-income people, people of color, minors, undocumented people who will have the worst outcomes, meaning that they will have the most economic harm from having a birth rather than being able to get an abortion.”

While being denied an abortion doesn’t depend so much on abortion restrictions, Dr. Foster said people in states with many restrictions are more likely to be denied, and earlier in pregnancy.

"The reason the economic impact could differ is that states that pass a lot of abortion restrictions also tend to have very lousy policies around supporting low-income mothers," she said.

For instance, 14 states with the tightest restrictions on abortions limit pregnancy-related Medicaid eligibility, according to an amicus brief filed on behalf of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In six of the 14, pregnancy-related eligibility standards fall below the national median of twice the federal poverty level — an annual income of $25,760.

Jeanne Chow and her daughter Isabella Casado hug during a protest in support of abortion rights after the leak of a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, preparing for a majority of the court to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision later this year, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 3, 2022.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Jeanne Chow and her daughter Isabella Casado hug during a protest in support of abortion rights (Reuters)

For decades, Republicans have pushed regulations on the state level that restrict access to abortions. These regulations include banning abortions after a certain gestational age of the pregnancy, requiring women to receive state-written information about abortion, imposing a prolonged waiting period, or requiring parental consent for minors seeking care.

Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, U.S. states have enacted 1,336 abortion restrictions, according to data from Guttmatcher. Of those restrictions, 44% were enacted in the last decade alone.

Last month, Politico published a leaked draft of Friday's Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade.

With Roe being overturned, 26 states are certain or likely to ban or greatly restrict abortion, forcing many Americans to travel outside of their state for care. However, when you don’t have the financial means to afford travel, what options are you left with?

Money is the thing people cite as the factor that slows them down the most from getting an abortion,” Dr. Foster said. “Not being able to travel, not being able to afford to pay for the procedure, this is what already slows people down from getting their abortions earlier, and sometime that delay is so far that they actually are denied abortions altogether.”

With abortion costs gradually increasing, not to mention the cost of traveling extended distances, the overall cost of receiving care can be overwhelming. According to Planned Parenthood, the average cost of an abortion can cost up to $750. However, many regulations limit federal funds, such as Medicaid, from being used to pay for the procedure. In addition, some states also restrict insurance companies from covering the procedure, forcing many to pay out-of-pocket.

“When a whole state bans abortion and people have to travel hundreds of miles, money will be even more of an obstacle and will be even more of a factor dividing who is able to get an abortion and who is not,” said Dr. Foster. “The unfairness there is that the people without the money to travel will be the ones who also don’t have the money to provide for a child.”

Many companies are offering to front travel costs for individuals seeking care. Disney (DIS), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), and Microsoft (MSFT) are among the companies announcing they will reimburse travel expenses for individuals seeking to obtain abortion care outside their home state.

"Given what is at stake, business leaders need to make their voices heard and act to protect the health and well-being of our employees. That means protecting reproductive rights," Levi Strauss & Co said in a statement after the leaked draft came out.

While many might view this a positive scenario, Dr. Foster isn’t entirely sure.

“I find it kind of objectionable that an employer has a say in whether someone gets an abortion or not,” she said. “I wish that we didn’t have a system where employers have anything to do with one’s private childbearing decisions. I also wish the government didn’t get to decide on people’s private childbearing decisions.”

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Sandra Salathe is an editor at Yahoo Finance.

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