AOC says abortion bans ‘conscript’ the poor to work. Research shows restrictions have devastating economic impacts

Election 2022 Progressives (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In the US Supreme Court’s landmark ruling to revoke a constitutional right to abortion care, Justice Samuel Alito suggested that the “attitudes about the pregnancy of unmarried women” have changed.

“Modern developments” like medical leave for pregnancy and childbirth are “guaranteed by law” in many cases, medical care is “covered” by insurance, and “safe haven laws” allow people to drop off babies anonymously to give them up for adoption.

But such “modern developments” fail to reflect that the US has some of the worst economic and health outcomes for women and families, while only a fraction of workers get anything close to “guaranteed” leave, and eliminating access to abortion care can have devastating economic costs.

In a hearing on the far-reaching consequences of anti-abortion laws on 29 September, US Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that denying abortion access to millions of Americans is a “profound economic issue”.

“Forcing poor and working class people to give birth against their will, against their consent, against their ability to provide for themselves or their child is a profound economic issue,” she told the House Oversight committee. “It certainly is a way to keep a workforce, basically, conscripted.”

In the 27 states poised to severely restrict or outlaw abortion without protections from Roe v Wade, none have paid family and medical leave, and 18 have gender wage gaps above the national average, according to Center for American Progress.

Women live in poverty at rates above the national average in 22 of those states, and children live in poverty at rates higher than the national average in 17.

Nineteen states also have not expanded Medicaid, the federal healthcare programme for low-income Americans, to provide care up to 12 months after giving birth.

Without a “robust federal and state” effort to strengthen the nation’s social safety net, people unexpectedly facing parenthood are “likely to fall even further through the cracks – with downstream effects on their children, communities, and local and state economies,” according to the report.

“The idea that abortion and access to abortion is somehow not a profound and central economic and class issue and class struggle is certainly something that I think a person who has never had to contend with the ability to carry a child – it belies that perspective,” according to Ms Ocasio-Cortez.

Abortion rights are a class struggle too,” she added on Twitter. “When the powerful force people to give birth against their will, they trap millions into cycles of economic setback and desperation. Especially in a country without guaranteed healthcare. And desperate workers are far easier to exploit.”

One study found that patients who were denied an abortion experienced “a wide range of negative financial consequences,” including lower credit scores, increased debt, greater risk of bankrupty and eviction from their homes.

The study also found that those abortion restrictions were linked to a higher risk of child poverty and poor developmental outcomes among children.

Another study following two groups of women over 10 years – including one group that access abortions and another that wanted to but could not – found that people who were denied an abortion sank deeper into poverty as a result.

In 2021, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that restrictive abortion laws cost state and local economies $105bn from workforce reductions and earnings levels and increasing turnover and time off from work among women ages 15 to 44 years old.

Medical costs for birth are also expensive, even with insurance coverage. The average cost for vaginal deliveries in 2015 was roughly $4,300, and $5,200 for caesarean births, according to a study of more than 600,000 women between 2008 and 2015 who had health coverage through their employer.

“Policymakers and advocates must recognize that the fall of Roe is an economic issue and would be one more victory for the economics of control and disempowerment – low wages, little worker power, and rising disinvestment,” according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute. “Reproductive justice is key to economic justice and protects women’s humanity, dignity, and the right to exert freedom over their own choices in the economy.”