The Economic Impact on Women if Roe v. Wade is Overturned

Kara Pérez is the founder of Bravely Go, a financial platform focused on feminist economics and inclusive personal finance

Economic impact roe v wade

Photo: Unsplash/ Gayatri Malhotra

What Roe v. Wade Provided

I grew up with a single mother and two siblings. My mother worked full time and paid for everything we needed  — sports equipment, food, braces, etc. But this remarkable accomplishment has only been possible for women, let alone mothers, for about 41 years.

When Roe v. Wade passed in 1973, women still couldn’t have their own bank accounts or lines of credit in their own names. Meaning that you needed a man to sign the paperwork if you wanted a mortgage or a car loan. The freedom for a woman to do that on her own wouldn’t come until a year later. You could fire a woman for getting pregnant until 1978 when the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed.

All roads lead back to Roe. Once abortion access was federally guaranteed, women had a true say in control over their own bodies. Which in turn, gave them control over their finances and careers.

See, the thing about having a child is it’s a ten-month commitment for your body at a minimum. There’s morning sickness, brain fog, fatigue, and general aches and pains among others. Breastfeeding and late nights losing sleep while your newborn learns how loud their lungs really can get.

During that time, it is possible to work. Of course, it is. Women have been having babies in the fields and then going back to work since the dawn of time. But having a baby changes your life and having a baby in modern society changes your money.

Now you need diapers and bottles and babas. There are doctor’s visits for routine checkups and for emergency trips when a bead accidentally ends up in an ear. There are extracurricular activities, school supplies, clothing, and food, so much food, and all of this requires money. But losing abortion access has a huge impact on the ability to earn, save, and keep the money.

Losing Roe v. Wade Means More Women + Children in Poverty

Studies show women with children are more likely to live in debt and/or have lower credit scores. When we zoom out, that makes sense; a new parent now has a whole new person to care for.

In a study by Diana Greene Foster,  a professor at the University of California San Francisco and the lead author of the study, they followed two groups: one with access to abortion and one without. They found that the “economic trajectories” of the two groups diverged when the babies were born. The hardships for those people who did not get an abortion “last for years,” and “The consequences of being denied an abortion plunged those women deeper into poverty.”

Foster’s study found that for women with babies it took four years to catch up to the levels of employment of the women who received an abortion. More shocking was that 72 percent of the women who did not receive an abortion ended up living in poverty, compared with 55 percent of those who did.

We could be forcing women to give birth in the U.S. and then do nothing to support them or the child that so many people demanded to be born.

Losing Roe v. Wade Means Fewer Women at Work

Lack of abortion access also forces women out of the workforce. When women can’t find childcare after giving birth, or when they have complicated pregnancies and need time off from work for healthcare, they often step away entirely from work to be the caregiver.

Why does this happen so frequently here? Because the U.S. is the only country in its wealth bracket, and only one of three countries in the entire world, that has no paid maternity leave.

The U.S. is the only country among 41 nations that does not offer any paid leave for new parents, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which compiled data as current as of April 2018.

It should come as no surprise that forcing someone out of work while at the same time giving them a whole other human to care for is bad for economies. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research showed that state-level abortion restrictions cost state economies $105 billion a year in lost labor force participation, time off work, earnings, and increased turnover.

Put another way, the study found that keeping women IN the workforce by eliminating all abortion restrictions would allow “505,000 more women aged 15 to 44 would be in the labor force and that they would earn over $3 billion dollars annually, an amount that would go back into the state’s economy.”
More women at work means a healthier economy. But losing Roe ensures that fewer women will be able to work outside the home.

Losing Roe Means an Increase in Women’s Mortality Rates

It’s incredibly dangerous to give birth in the U.S., far more so than in other first-world nations. About 3 per 100,000 women die in childbirth in countries like New Zealand or Norway. Yet data for 2020 published by the CDC shows the maternal death rate in the U.S. rose from 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019 to 23.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2020. That is an 18 percent increase in one year and a 37 percent increase from 2018. It’s getting more dangerous to give birth in the US, especially if you’re a woman of color.

According to the CDC, in 2020 the maternal mortality rate for non-Latinx Black women was 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births. This is almost 3x the rate for non-Latinx white women. The maternal death rate among Latinas increased the most between 2019 to 2020, with a 44 percent increase over that single year.

Losing Roe forces women and people who can get pregnant to continue with pregnancy despite the risk it poses to their own lives. It forces them to go through with things like ectopic pregnancies, where the fetus grows outside the womb and the leading cause of death is hemorrhage, according to a review by the Michigan Maternal Mortality Committee. They also found that 75 percent of the deaths as a result of ectopic pregnancy were considered preventable.

Losing Roe means more women will die. Is that hard to read? Because it’s hard to write. It’s hard to comprehend that five people who have never been through one of these scenarios, four of whom can’t even get pregnant, are sentencing people across the country to death for their personal beliefs.

It’s hard to believe that 49 years after Roe, we have to start fighting all over again for the right to make choices for ourselves, to be able to live the lives we want to live.

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