Economic Policy Institute analysis: Overturning Roe v. Wade would be an economic catastrophe for millions of women

[This post was originally published by the Economic Policy Institute. Click here to read the original.]

A leaked draft of a majority opinion authored by Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito strongly suggests that the Court will rule to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the two landmark cases that have upheld the right to an abortion nationwide for the last half century. If the final ruling largely follows what is sketched out in the leaked draft, abortion services will be drastically curtailed, if not outright banned, in over half the country.

Abortion is often framed as a “culture-war” issue, distinct from material “bread and butter” economic issues. In reality, abortion rights and economic progress are deeply interconnected, and the imminent loss of abortion rights means the loss of economic security, independence, and mobility for millions of women. The fall of Roe will be an additional economic blow, as women in the 26 states likely to ban abortion already face an economic landscape of lower wages, worker power, and access to health care.

Women’s economic lives, livelihoods, and mobility are at the heart of the reasoning to overrule Roe.

In the draft majority opinion, Justice Alito dismissed the argument in Casey that women had organized their lives, relationships, and careers with the availability of abortions services, writing “that form of reliance depends on an empirical question that is hard for anyone—and in particular, for a court—to assess, namely the effect of the abortion right on society and in particular on the lives of women.” In fact, this empirical question has been definitively assessed and answered. A rich and rigorous social science literature has examined both the detrimental effect of a denied abortion on women’s lives, as well as the individual and societal economic benefits of abortion legalization, as detailed in the thorough amicus brief filed in Dobbs on behalf of over 100 economists.

Some of the economic consequences of being denied an abortion include a higher chance of being in poverty even four years after; a lower likelihood of being employed full time; and an increase in unpaid debts and financial distress lasting years. Laws that restrict abortion providers, so-called “TRAP” laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers), have led to women in those states being less likely to move into higher-paying occupations.

On the flip side, environments in which abortion is legal and accessible have lower rates of teen first births and marriages. Abortion legalization has also been associated with reduced maternal mortality for Black women. The ability to delay having a child has been found to translate to significantly increased wages and labor earnings, especially among Black women, as well as increased likelihood of educational attainment. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen concluded that “eliminating the rights of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.”

The draft opinion of this overtly partisan Supreme Court ignores the rigorous data and empirical studies demonstrating the significant economic consequences of this decision. In doing so, it lays bare the cruel and misogynistic politics that motivate it. Justice Alito’s dismissal of claims that forcing women to bear an unwanted pregnancy imposes a heavy burden is shockingly glib, as he simply asserts “that federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases, that the costs of medical care associated with pregnancy are covered by insurance or government assistance….”

Every statement in this casual litany is wildly misleading. Women are still routinely fired for being pregnant, close to 9 in 10 workers lacked paid leave in 2020, the costs of maternity care with insurance have risen sharply and constitute a serious economic burden for even middle-income families. And many of the states certain or likely to ban abortion after the fall of Roe have not expanded Medicaid, leaving women without insurance facing much steeper costs—particularly in the immediate post-partum period. And, of course, our failed health care system often imposes the ultimate cost of all on pregnant women: The U.S. rate of maternal mortality, especially for Black women, ranks last among similarly wealthy countries. In short, the potential costs of bearing a child are high indeed, and it is women who should decide if and when they wish to shoulder them.

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On International Women’s Day, a united voice for a $15 minimum wage

Bishop William Barber, founder of the Poor People’s Campaign and Moral Mondays, joined poor and low-income women Monday in a renewed call for Congress to enact a $15/hour minimum wage for all workers.

Kris Kincaid, a former restaurant worker from West Virginia, criticized Senator Joe Manchin for blocking efforts to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour in the $1.9 Trillion COVID relief bill that passed the Senate last Saturday.

“Low wage workers, we can’t make ends meet,” said Kincaid.”If we can pay rent, then we can’t afford groceries.”

Kincaid said she would use the latest round of stimulus to pay a month’s worth of rent and some overdue bills. Any amount left over would help feed others in her community who will not receive a relief payment from the government.

Kris Kincaid

“And it’s not because they are making too much money. It’s because they don’t have an address to send the money to. They don’t have nowhere to live. They are couch-hopping, because they lost their house,” explained Kincaid.

Shailly Gupta Barnes, Policy Director at the Kairos Center, said expansion of the child tax credit in the COVID relief bill should be celebrated, but it is also not enough.

“It’s not enough just to make it possible. It has to be accessible for families to sign-up and receive this benefit,” said Gupta Barnes, who wants the tax credit to be made permanent.

The $3,000 child tax credit works out to about $57 more a week for working parents, according to Gupta Barnes.

“We’ve done more than this for the corporations,” chided Barber at Monday’s virtual event. “They keep acting like poor people can wait.”

One person who is tired of waiting is Rhiana Ford, a tipped server who earns $5 an hour at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport.

She recounted how she took time away from that job to work for Democrats in the U.S. Senate runoff election in Georgia.

Rhiana Ford

“I left my home, I left my Dad, I left my sister, I left my finance to go to Georgia during a pandemic to make sure I could have a better future, a better everything,” Ford said.

“And I’m coming back home, and we still don’t have 15?”

Barber said politicians should not take Ford and other working women for granted.

“You are not going to mute our voice in the name that we ought to just go along to get along.”

According to the Poor People’s Campaign, more than half of the nation’s 140 million poor and low-income are women and girls, and an overwhelming majority of frontline workers are women.

The group is continuing to push the 117th Congress and the Biden administration to pass a $15/hr minimum wage, expanded unemployment benefits and help those who have suffered the most during the pandemic.

Learn more about their 14 Policy Priorities to Heal the Nation.

New report reveals negative impact of legislative changes to child care policy and a better path forward

One of the most pressing concerns for any working family with children in North Carolina is to figure out a child care arrangement for children that allows parents to work and provide for their family, and allows children to learn and grow in a safe and stimulating setting when not in parental care. This is especially challenging because of the high cost of child care, as noted in these recently released state fact sheets by Child Care Aware of America. There are a few options available for families who earn low to moderate wages including the child care subsidy program which provides financial assistance to working families who need help paying for child care. Unfortunately this critical building block that makes life work for working families has been crumbling due to recent policy decisions by North Carolina lawmakers.

In our newest edition of Prosperity Watch, we feature a report released this month by NC Child detailing the impact made by child care subsidy policy changes passed by North Carolina lawmakers last year. These changes amounted to the loss of financial assistance for thousands of North Carolina families, including reducing income eligibility levels to qualify for the program, elimination of prorated fees for part-time child care (meaning many families will no longer be able to afford care), as well as counting income of a non-parent relative caregiver like a grandparent against the child’s eligibility for subsidies.

The map below provides a county by county breakdown of the more than 6,000 children who have lost or will lose access to child care subsidies from the change to the income eligibility provision alone.

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Paid family leave takes step forward in U.S. Senate

Support for Paid family leave advanced in the U.S. Senate yesterday, as lawmakers heard testimony on its benefits in a key Children and Families Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill.

During the hearing—which was requested by U.S. Senator Kay Hagan—North Carolina business owners, advocates, and representatives of working families made the case for why paid family medical leave policies benefit both employees and businesses. Such programs allow workers to recover from a serious illness or care for a sick loved one or new child without risking their job or the income they need. The hearing renewed a call for a universal family and medical leave insurance program that doesn’t shoulder all the burden of cost on employers.

Currently the Family and Medical Leave Act is the only federal law designed to help working people succeed both as providers and caregivers. It leaves out 40 percent of the workforce and guarantees only unpaid leave, which millions cannot afford. Only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and less than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided temporary disability program. This means millions of workers who develop serious health conditions, have seriously ill family members or become parents are forced to choose between providing care or having the income they need to cover basic expenses.

In North Carolina, 77 percent of mothers with children under 18 work, and 44 percent of workers have no access to paid sick days, let alone paid family medical leave. Low-income workers have it even worse off and are often given no flexibility in their work schedules at all.

Two North Carolinians testified at the hearing. Jeannine Sato is a resident of Durham, NC and member of NC MomsRising. Sato’s previous employer denied her extended leave after the birth of her first child. She said:

We are human – to pretend that people don’t get sick and that they don’t give birth just doesn’t make sense….Families should have the opportunity to care for their loved ones without the risk of losing their jobs or falling into poverty…. America needs to step up and join the rest of the industrialized world in offering paid family leave in order to be competitive and humane.

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North Carolina represents at White House Summit on Working Families

Today, in Washington DC, hundreds of business leaders, workers, moms and advocates from around the country will be discussing what needs to change to make work something that works for our 21st century families at the White House Summit on Working Families (you can live-stream it from the link.)

It’s the first time a conversation like this has happened at such a high level. And thanks in large part to Women AdvaNCe, North Carolina will have a strong, loud voice at the meeting.

We’re expecting the Tar Heel delegation to be 28 strong. Women AdvaNCe has been working in targeted counties to bring the conversations about pay equity, paid earned sick leave and the need for stronger family support and worker protections. Now they are going to tell Washington what they think.  Twenty-three women from six different counties—from Alamance, Durham, Guilford, Orange, Wake, and Robeson counties—will be providing feedback on these issues and more in Washington. Another five of us will be attending through MomsRising, the North Carolina Families Care coalition and the NC Justice Center.

“The number of women in today’s U.S. workforce has grown to 47%, and many women serve as both their family’s breadwinner and primary caregiver,” said Mary Swann Parry, Director of Advocacy at Women AdvaNCe.  “Today’s families need workplace flexibility with supports like paid sick and family leave, so that parents don’t have to choose between staying home with a sick child or going to work so that they can afford to buy groceries. It’s about economic stability.”

Lack of paid sick and family leave also hurts business, according to Durham’s Laura Helms Reece, CEO at Rho, Inc. “It is not financially smart to lose people to bad policies,” she said. “It is more expensive to hire someone else than to offer current employees those sick days.”

Reece participated in a recent round table discussion led by Women AdvaNCe in preparation of the D.C. Summit, where working women and business leaders gathered to discuss how NC businesses and policymakers can help close the leadership gap for women in North Carolina.

Expect to hear a lot more about the need for workplace policies that make good business sense and that don’t force parents to choose between putting food on the table and letting a sick child recuperate at home with mom. Local laws are being passed around the country to provide this basic protection.

 

Not only is Women AdvaNCe planning a local summit on September 26 related to these issues of equity, but they and others like Working America and MomsRising are working in coalitions like NC Women Matter, NC Women United, and North Carolina Families Care to raise our voices so families aren’t forced into impossible choices.