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Protesters fill the street in front of the supreme court after its decision to overturn Roe v Wade.
Protesters fill the street in front of the supreme court after its decision to overturn Roe v Wade. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Protesters fill the street in front of the supreme court after its decision to overturn Roe v Wade. Photograph: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

People in abortion-restrictive US states economically disempowered – study

This article is more than 1 year old

Wages, incarceration rates and unemployment benefits access worse when compared with states allowing the procedure

Wages, employment security, incarceration rates and access to unemployment benefits are all worse in US states where abortion is restricted or banned, compared with those where it is protected, a new report has found.

The report by the Economic Policy Institute also found that minimum wages are, on average, $3.75 an hour lower in abortion restrictive states compared with protective states ($8.17 compared with $11.92); and that restrictive states incarcerate people at 1.5 times the rate of protective states.

“There is strong empirical evidence that abortion denial and abortion bans have negative economic consequences, from prolonged financial distress to lower wages and earnings, employment, educational attainment, and economic mobility,” said Asha Banerjee, an economic analyst at EPI who authored the report.

“The states that have banned abortion rights are also the same states economically disempowering people through these other economic channels,” Banerjee added.

Since the US supreme court last year scrapped federal abortion rights previously guaranteed under Roe vs Wade, a wave of Republican-run states have moved to limit or ban abortion.

The report analyzes data from 50 US states and the District of Columbia, listing 25 states as protective and 26 as abortion restrictive. Those restrictive states include states such as Alabama, Idaho and Tennessee, which all have full abortion bans; as well as states like Florida, Georgia and Utah, which have different gestational limits and other restrictions on abortion.

Calling restrictions a “sustained project of economic subjugation and disempowerment”, the report portrays a damning economic situation in the 26 states where abortion is severely restricted or banned.

With particular reference to differences in the minimum wage in restrictive and protective states, the report points out that “keeping the minimum wage purposefully and persistently low ensures that many people and families will struggle to cover their costs and get out of poverty … If the person denied an abortion is also working a minimum wage job, the negative economic effect is compounded.”

The report also finds that, on average, abortion-restrictive states have half the rate of unionized workers compared with protective states – an important indicator of economic power and racial parity in wages.

When it comes to the availability and access to welfare benefits – such as unemployment and medicaid expansion – the report finds a similar relationship. In restrictive states, unemployed people access the benefits they are entitled to at a rate of 12 percentage points lower than unemployed workers in protective states.

A number of states in the restrictive category have also not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, despite often having higher levels of parental poverty. “The federal government has Medicaid funding coverage allocated, yet states choose not to take it – leaving millions without health insurance coverage,” the report says.

But it is the statistics on incarceration that show the steepest differences between restrictive and protective states.

“Incarceration and the criminalization of pregnancy and abortion have existed historically (recall the bans) and are seeing a troubling resurgence after the [supreme court decision] … Some states are threatening to imprison anyone suspected of ‘aiding or abetting’ an abortion, including medical professionals, acquaintances, family members, and even ride-share app drivers … ” the report said.

“Women of color are disproportionately likely to be and are overrepresented among people getting abortions in the states that recorded demographic data. Incarceration and abortion bans are intertwined with the long legacy of state-sanctioned anti-Black racism,” the report states.

Criminal justice reform advocates agreed.

“Abortion restrictions and incarceration are about the same thing: power and control. Power and control over people’s bodies, lives and autonomy. Mass criminalization and incarceration over the last several decades have included the criminalization of pregnant people as collateral damage in the war on drugs and the criminalization of poverty,” said Dana Sussman, acting executive director of Pregnancy Justice.

Sussman added: “We must understand that law enforcement and the carceral system target vulnerable people, including pregnant people, and those who help them and are a destabilizing and traumatizing force that inflicts harms on generations of families.”

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