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Women in States With Abortion Bans Face Greater Economic Insecurity

Indiana abortion protest
Cheney Orr/Reuters/FILE
Women living in states that restrict or ban abortion face greater economic insecurity than those living in states where they have access. Activists protest outside the Indiana Statehouse in Indianapolis, July 25, 2022.

In all 26 states that have restricted abortion access, there are lower minimum wages, unionization levels, access to Medicaid and unemployment benefits, as well as higher rates of incarceration.

(CNN) — Women living in states that restrict or ban abortion face greater economic insecurity than those living in states where they have access, new research finds.

Since the nearly seven months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, half of all states — 26 in total — have implemented new abortion restrictions or all-out bans.

In nearly all 26 states, there are lower minimum wages, unionization levels, access to Medicaid and unemployment benefits, as well as higher rates of incarceration than states with more lenient abortion policies, according to new research by the Economic Policy Institute.

"These economic policies all compound on each other. And you add to that an abortion ban, it just compounds this financial stress, this economic insecurity," said Asha Banerjee, an economic analyst with the institute and the author of the report.

Last year, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made a similar argument to the Financial Oversight Council.

"I believe that eliminating the right 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," Yellen told lawmakers in May.

The lack of abortion access has the greatest economic impact on women of color, especially those already in dire financial conditions, according to Banerjee.

"In many of these states, especially the states which have banned abortion, many of the women who are facing economic challenges already are also women of color," she said.

Raising the minimum wage is a powerful tool that has been known to have significant impact on closing racial income gaps. But nearly two-thirds of abortion restrictive states have a $7.25 minimum wage, the lowest legal hourly wage for most workers in the United States.

The average minimum wage across the 26 states is $8.17, lower than the average $11.92 for states with no restrictions. (Many of those states also have a higher cost of living, however.)

"If the person denied an abortion is also working a minimum wage job, the negative economic effect is compounded," the report states.

Access to healthcare, unemployment insurance

Many of those low-wage jobs also do not offer benefits like health care, which is why access to Medicaid is critical.

"Medicaid is a lifeline for low-income families and low-income women when jobs might not offer adequate healthcare. Medicaid in the immediate postpartum period is especially important," said Banerjee.

Just 12 states have not expanded Medicaid benefits since the 2010 Obamacare law, and all of them have restrictive abortion policies.

However, some states with total abortion bans, with few exceptions, have expanded Medicaid, including Missouri. And in five other abortion restrictive states (Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and South Dakota later this year) residents voted to expand the benefit.

Access to unemployment insurance is another key indicator of a state's commitment to economic support for residents. Forty-two percent of residents have access to unemployment benefits in states that have abortion protections. Compare that to 30% in states with abortion restrictions.

Even if unemployment is accessible, the amount differs from state to state. For example, in Mississippi, a state with a total abortion ban with limited exceptions, weekly unemployment checks average $217. Meanwhile in Massachusetts, which has a more protective 24-week abortion ban — checks average $556 weekly.

"When you have unemployment insurance it helps create financial stability. These states which have abortion bans also have really terrible unemployment insurance systems with really low benefits which do not help one support oneself," said Banerjee.

Although women make up a smaller percentage of those incarcerated than men, it is the economic category with the greatest difference between abortion protected and abortion-restricted states. The rate of incarceration in states with restrictive or total bans on abortion is more than one and a half times higher than the rate of incarceration for states with abortion protections.

"It's very much a racial justice issue because Black and Hispanic women are very disproportionately incarcerated. And that has huge economic impacts on future earnings and the ability to get a job," said Banerjee.

In some states with abortion restrictions and higher rates of incarceration — legislation has suggested also criminalizing women, doctors, or anyone aiding a woman in seeking an abortion.

"The incarceration argument is especially important because in these states where abortion bans have come into play, there's a huge criminalization aspect," said Banerjee.

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Vanessa Yurkevich