There Is No Getting Around the Fact That Restricting Abortion Access Has Economic Consequences for Women

Last week, Lori Szala the national director of client services for the Human Coalition, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times attempting to deny a connection between the availability of abortion and the economic well-being of women and families. Ms. Szala claims that linking abortion and economics “reduces mothers and their children to mere economic objects.” Abortion, she writes, is society’s “way of avoiding grappling with the fundamental injustices driving women to abortion clinics.”

It would be easier to take her argument seriously if Ms. Szala didn’t work for an organization whose mission is to outlaw abortion. Nonetheless, she is right in saying that our society must do far more to support pregnant women and families. Parenting should not be a privilege reserved for the wealthy—but neither should abortion care. Further, it's just plain wrong to deny, as Ms. Szala does, that preventing a woman from getting an abortion if she wants one has real economic consequences. There is no getting around the fact that when a woman can’t complete her schooling or loses her job because she needs to stay home with her child, she and her family suffer economically.

No woman who wants to become pregnant, continue a pregnancy, adopt a child, or otherwise grow her family should be pressured or prevented from doing so because she’s worried that she won’t be able to provide that child with basic necessities. At the same time, we must be honest about the economic pressures pregnant and parenting women face and ensure that each woman has access to the full range of reproductive health care she needs to make the decisions that are best for her, her family and her future.

Unfortunately, some federal and state lawmakers are trying to pull the rug out from under women and families: They’ve refused to raise the minimum wage to keep up even with inflation, and they’ve gutted health, education, nutrition, and housing programs families need to live with health and dignity.

Those same politicians, whose are making it harder and harder for women with kids to make ends meet, are the very ones who are also pushing abortion out of reach, leaving many women in an impossible double bind. A woman who wants to continue a pregnancy must contend with lack of family-leave policies, poor child-care options, unaffordable housing, a health insurance system that is currently on the chopping block and more. (The healthcare bill recently passed by the House allows insurance companies to deny maternity care and attempts to prevent insurers from covering abortion, and the Trump administration has indicated that it would like to allow employers a free pass to block their employees’ right to coverage for birth control.)

At the same time, a woman who has decided to end her pregnancy may be blocked from that care by needless restrictions that shut down clinics and bans on abortion coverage as well as other policies designed to shame, bully, and punish women for abortion. And all of these policies fall hardest on those struggling financially, who are more likely to be women of color, immigrants, younger, and LGBTQ.

Szala’s attempt to deny the connection between abortion access and economic security runs counter to women’s lived experiences and the facts. Research shows that a woman who wants to get an abortion but is denied it is more likely to be in poverty years later than one who can get an abortion.

There are two problems here. The first arises when a woman’s decision — which she alone is best positioned to make — is thwarted by politicians, and she’s forced onto a path she didn’t choose for herself. For example, restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four poor women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

The second is when a woman is able to see her decision through — whether it’s continuing a pregnancy or seeking an abortion — but still experiences severe economic consequences. This happens when a woman is able to obtain and pay for an abortion, but it means forgoing rent or other basic needs or when a woman decides to have a baby but isn’t paid a living wage that allows her to support a child.

It’s an extraordinarily challenging landscape for women who are trying to make and carry out decisions about pregnancy, our families, and our futures. It can sometimes feel like we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t. But that’s why we keep fighting. That’s why we fight for the right of each woman to make her own decisions about pregnancy and parenting, get abortion care when she needs it, continue a pregnancy if she wants to, and raise children with dignity.

That’s also why in addition to reproductive freedom, the ACLU works for racial justice, voting rights, immigrants’ rights, economic justice, and more: Because women are more than any one aspect of their lives. Supporting women and families means ensuring that income doesn’t determine access to basic human rights.

We should all work toward a world where economic pressures don’t factor into a woman’s pregnancy decisions. But we’re not there yet — and wishing it was otherwise won’t make it so. We’ll get there by continuing each day to fight for women and families and a better future for us all.

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Anonymous

I'm a Christian, and I totally disagree with abortion, for any reason. For us out maker, it is up to him if someone does. I also think that after two children, that if a parent cant5 financially provide for the two they already have, they shouldn't be able to bring more children into this eorld6. But do not snored them. These girls and guys should be taught to cook, foods like potatoes, dried beans, eggs, etc. They should be taught the skills of cooking, and nutritional classes. You are not going to starve eating simply . Potatoes, eggs, dried beans, rice, cheese and bread, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This is what I grew up on. Most now want to eat out, and usually fast food. Or fix fast convenient foods, which cost more, and not as healthy. So cut back the good stamps, and teach them cooking skills. It doesn't take a rocket scientists to cook these foods. There are so many ways for the United States to cut the budget. The military is so wasteful, it's ridiculous. These children didn't ask to be born, so lets6 take care of them. God says to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, give to the needy. Most people are too materialistic. America was founded in God, Christians day back and let all this hsppen5. How sad

America

"America" was founded by my Native American forefathers before the white and brown man came. No your "God and Jesus" where brought here illegally. Your Jesus followers encouraged and perpetuated the outright genocide of my people. Your people forced conversion by punishment of death. I'd rather be martyred and go to my gods heaven than become one of your killers! Your Jesus was a gay Jew with foot fetish! If I had a time machine, I'd go to Plymouth Rock and sink your diseased, evil boats before you could start your war!

Anonymous

That's your delusional thinking. This country is NOT founded in god. The founding fathers were not religious as you 'think'. Keep your religious bullshit out of politics and law,. That is stated in the US Constitution.

Anonymous

@America - You're right, it is disgusting what we (Europeans) did to the Native Americans.

Anonymous

Im confused with previous poster. Are you advocating cutting food stamps (SNAP) and also suggesting teachig cooking? And then saying we need to take care of all kids?
These seem contradictory statements.

Are you aware how much the average person receives in food stamps? Its $127 per month.

http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/avg-monthly-food-stamp-benefits/?cu...

And the max income one can earn to qualify? A family of 4 gross income must be under $2025. They would get about $300 for a family of 4 if making $2025. So about $75 each for 90 meals. $.83 per meal.

Sounds like a lot right? In many places, and not just the typical ones, rent alone would be at least $1500 for a 2 bedroom. Most places have years wait list for housing vouchers.

https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligibility

Childcare can easily run $800 for an infant. Public transit doesnt exist in most places so there is some sort of cost for gas, insurance, car repairs and the car itself.

Utilities average of about $200-$300.

So that $2025 a month comes up short even with $300 foodstamps.

Are you also aware the % of the total budget food stamps makes up?
Food stamp spending is a tiny fraction of overall government spending—just 2% in 2012. By comparioson, we spent 19% of the U.S. budget that year on defense. Why are we trying to squeeze poor kids to reallocate budget money?

https://www.fns.usda.gov/pd/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap

http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-budget/policy-basics-where-do-our-f...

83% of all SNAP/food stamp benefits go to households with a child, senior, or disabled person. Most food stamp recipients are children and the elderly. So we want to take a tiny amount of $ from them for what? More defense spending? Tax cuts for the upper end?

Being at the upper end, Id pay more $ for kids, elderly and disabled to have adequate food.

If we want to reduce our budget we need to reduce defense spending. Its simple math. But nothing is simple when lobbyists and corporations are people are involved. Money talks...sadly.

Anonymous

Great comment.

Anonymous

Okay, look. I'm Christian, too. I also have qualms about abortion. But you know what I also believe? I believe Christ said to care for the poor and needy- and I don't remember qualifiers of "if they live up to your personal standards." I also believe in "Judge not that ye be not judged." And that Christ loved and asked us to look after the children. All the children.
There's more to say, but please, if you're truly following the teachings of Christ, try to look at others with mercy, not condemnation.

Anonymous

You don't know what Jesus wanted. You believe a "book"' that is really a series of stories collected by an English king more than 1,000 years after his death! The "power" of Jesus is derived from the humans who follow the way. It is not the only way and many christians in this country believe they are a majority, here and on the planet. Nothing is farther from the truth. In fact, Buddhism is the worlds largest religion, followed by Hindus. Islam and Christianity are bastard religions that teach intolerance! Blessed are the peacemakers is a saying that makes it ok to murder in the name of religion. Murder is murder in all forms, knowingly or not. It wasn't Christ that taught protect the children, it was Christ that said don't prevent them from coming to me so they can know the lord god. Well, you do t need Jesus to know God and it's not "through him" that you find enlightenment. Sorry Jesus, not hating on you, your people have have bastardized your true teachings.

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