South Carolina cannot afford abortion bans

·3 min read

In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, South Carolina legislators are rushing to pass new bills that could outlaw all abortions in South Carolina. While much of the debate has centered on the extensive health consequences of the bills, it is equally critical that South Carolina residents understand the severe, long-lasting economic consequences of proposed legislation.

Many South Carolinians are already facing profound economic challenges. About 15% of women live below the federal poverty line. About 40% of children live in households led by single mothers, and 35% of children growing up in single-parent households live below the poverty line. South Carolina has one of the widest gender and racial wage gaps in the country.

Pregnancy, childbirth and parenting are extremely costly, and financial factors are among the main reasons that people seek abortions. These proposed laws do nothing to address the economic conditions that compel people to seek abortion. Instead, these laws would increase economic hardship on the households that can least afford it — forcing costs to go up and earning potential to go down. The bill sponsors have not bothered to explain how they would alleviate these enormous economic burdens, apparently content to let women and families figure it out for themselves.

We have extensive data on the economic consequences of being denied abortion care via the Turnaway Study, a rigorous, longitudinal study comparing women who received the abortions they sought with women who were “turned away” from an abortion because of legal restrictions. Women who were turned away from a wanted abortion and went on to give birth were nearly four times as likely to be living in poverty six months later and three times as likely to be unemployed relative to those who received an abortion.

Years after an abortion denial, women were more likely to not have enough money to cover basic living expenses like food, housing and transportation. They were 78% more likely to end up with delinquent debt and 81% more likely to have an increase in negative credit. Women denied abortion are more likely to remain tethered to abusive partners — in large part because of their financial dependency on their abusers. The consequences are intergenerational: children born as a result of abortion denial are more likely to live in poverty than children born from a subsequent pregnancy to women who received the abortion.

Businesses are rightfully concerned about the impact abortion bans have on their ability to attract and retain talent. After Indiana issued its total abortion ban, drug manufacturer Eli Lilly issued a statement that the new law will hinder their ability to “attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent from around the world,” and they “will be forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state.” This concern is substantiated by polling data: 70 percent of women and 59 percent of men ages 18-44 report that they would be discouraged from taking a job in a state that restricts access to abortion. Women are a vital and growing part of our labor force in South Carolina, but they will not be available to work if they cannot determine their reproductive futures.

The costs of these proposed bans are simply too high, and South Carolina’s families, businesses and future generations should not be forced to pay the price. Legislators should focus on alleviating the significant health and economic concerns that our residents face. Everyone who is concerned about the costs of this reckless government overreach should reach out to their State House Representatives and Senate members immediately to urge them to put a stop to abortion bans in South Carolina.

Ann Warner is the chief executive officer of Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN)