A new report prepared by researcher Asha Banerjee at the Economic Policy Institute explores and documents a troubling but unsurprising connection that afflicts several states in which the political right dominates policy-making. In “The economics of abortion bans,” Banerjee shows how “Abortion bans, low wages, and public underinvestment are interconnected economic policy tools to disempower and control workers.”
This is from the release that accompanied the report:
States with abortion restrictions or bans have lower wages, weaker labor standards, and higher levels of incarceration, according to a new EPI report. Given the consistent pattern of state abortion bans and negative economic outcomes, the results of the analysis underscore the connection between abortion access and economic mobility and financial security.
On average, states with abortion restrictions or total bans have:
- lower minimum wages ($8.17 compared with $11.92 in the abortion-protected states)
- unionization levels half as high as the abortion-protected states
- only 3 in 10 unemployed people receiving unemployment insurance (compared with 42% in other states)
- lower rates of Medicaid expansion
- an incarceration rate 1.5 times that of the states with abortion protections
As the report explains, abortion access is an economic issue because access to, or denial of, abortion services directly impact labor market experiences and economic outcomes. The decision whether to and when to have children is an economic one with powerful effects on one’s professional and personal life.
“Abortion has long been framed as a cultural, religious, or personal issue rather than a material ‘bread and butter’ economic concern. In reality, abortion rights and economic progress are fundamentally intertwined, and the loss of abortion rights means the loss of economic security, independence, and mobility for millions of people,” said Asha Banerjee, EPI economic analyst and author of the report. “Specifically, in states where abortion has been banned or restricted, abortion bans are yet another economic policy that disempowers workers.”
Following the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the report argues that policymakers must recognize that abortion access is an economic issue with economic consequences and restore abortion access nationwide immediately. Further, policymakers must dismantle economic policies that have hurt workers for generations and support working people who are most negatively impacted by abortion bans and restrictions, including by raising the federal minimum wage and expanding Medicaid coverage.
Though abortion care remains legal in North Carolina under most circumstances for the time being — indeed, the report notes that “…some states that still have abortion access have seen significant increases in their abortion rates, most notably North Carolina, which borders the new large abortion-restricted region in the South”– the state still imposes multiple dangerous restrictions and may well impose new ones in 2023. This fact coincides with the report’s listing it as a state with very low economic security for workers in a raft of important categories.
The report’s bottom line conclusion:
Abortion bans as an economic policy have not appeared in a vacuum, or even as a narrowly tailored religious concern, since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1972. Rather, denial of abortion access is one additional policy that states have engineered over decades in a sustained project of economic subjugation, control, and worker disempowerment. States that have banned and restricted abortion have largely also kept minimum wages low, underfunded and complicated their unemployment insurance systems, declined to expand Medicaid, suppressed unionization, and preferred to over-incarcerate. These policies, in conjunction, keep working people economically disempowered.
Click here to explore the full report.