Abortion’s Devastating Economic Effect

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Issue 16, Volume 112

By Astrid Harrington 

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The debate surrounding abortion is very complicated because people get caught up in the moral arguments that come with such an intricate issue. Stances on abortion are rationalized based on various assessments of when a fetus is truly alive. However, this focus overlooks a crucial aspect of the issue: the concrete economic effect abortion can have on women’s financial and mental well-being. In light of the recent Supreme Court leak regarding abortion rights, it must be made clear that abortion is a crucial tool. Denying access to it can devastate millions of women’s lives.

If women are denied access to abortion, they may have to spend large sums of money on prenatal care, depending on whether they have health insurance or not. The fact that one in 10 American women is uninsured makes this consequence a significant issue. Without insurance, the average cost of a vaginal birth is about $13 thousand, while the average cost of a C-section is about $22,500. On the other hand, the average cost of a first trimester abortion is between $320 and $600, making it a much cheaper option. Since 75 percent of people who get an abortion are low income, it is clear that many people who would otherwise be forced to go through with the pregnancy don’t have the money they need to support themselves. Without access to abortion, they would either be crippled by the massive costs or take the dangerous route and avoid prenatal care, putting themselves in danger.

After childbirth, there are two possibilities. First, the child can be put up for adoption, which can cause severe mental health issues for the parents and the child. People whose children are adopted don’t stop being parents. Their child is just being brought up by someone else, which can create a great sense of loss.

Alternatively, the parents may keep the child. Since women are usually given most childcare-related responsibility, the mother will likely be in a situation in which she can’t work as often or even at all. In a household already struggling with finances, this arrangement could be devastating. Single mothers tend to be the victims of many unwanted pregnancies, making their experiences even more difficult.

If the mother is still in school, the chances that she drops out increase astronomically. Whereas women who don’t give birth during adolescence have a 90 percent high school graduation rate, only about 50 percent of teen mothers graduate from high school by age 22. This trend remains constant for female college students. The lack of a high school or college diploma puts someone behind every potential employee who has a diploma, meaning that dropouts can have severely limited career opportunities in the future. Increases in debt are also correlated with being denied an abortion. Lack of access to abortions almost always causes long-term economic problems for the women involved.

On top of the individual impacts that restrictive abortion laws cause, the overall effect on America’s economy would be devastating. Every year, restrictive abortion laws cost the United States $105 billion as a result of decreased labor force participation and time off from work. The cost of increasing the restrictiveness of abortion laws would be even more significant. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that repealing Roe v. Wade could devastate the economy and “set women back decades.”

Options such as paid maternity leave and free childcare can help, but they can’t substitute for abortion. Raising a child requires enormous amounts of money and attention, even with these measures. They would only mitigate the effect that banning abortion would have. It’s also important to note that pro-lifers are not trying to expand these options—they are trying to remove access to abortion without providing any replacements.

Preserving access to abortion should be the priority for pro-choice activists, but if it is a lost cause, then addressing the economic ramifications is the next step. Though they can’t replace abortion, the alternatives mentioned above can help soften the financial blow that an unplanned pregnancy can deal, so they should be available to women who need them.

As a result of being denied an abortion, women who could have otherwise thrived are often plunged into poverty. The children born to a woman who wanted an abortion are also more likely to grow up in poverty and less likely to be successful as adults. Less restrictive abortion laws are better for all parties involved.

Lack of access to abortion causes lasting financial damage on an individual and national scale. This economic loss represents dreams being crushed: people can’t do things they’ve wanted to do all their lives, and they can’t reach the satisfaction that being able to pay the bills consistently can bring. As a result, it is crucial that abortion stays legal and accessible.