Beyond the Rhetoric: Abortion Restrictions Will Affect the Poor and Minorities Unequally
As with so many aspects of the culture wars, the American abortion debate seems to devote little time to examining what the policies will actually do to the people they target.
Proponents of the restrictions – or outright bans – believe they are fighting to save unborn lives. But while the question of when an unborn fetus becomes a person is more a matter of faith than sciencethese restrictions can have a profound impact on many people who are undeniably people.
Of course, those who will be most deeply affected will be the women and families who have little or no money to leave the state for an abortion in the likely event that Ohio severely restricts or bans the procedure. after the cancellation of Roe v Wade. .
So it seems important to see what the data can say about who these women are and what restricting their ability to end unwanted pregnancies means for Ohio and the rest of the country.
Each year, the Ohio Department of Health compiles abortion statistics in the state, giving a partial picture of who receives them.
A striking fact is the number of fewer women from all walks of life who terminate their pregnancies. The number has dropped from just under 45,000 in 1977, the first year for which the state released statistics, to around 20,000 in 2020, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Not surprisingly, the largest group of women who had abortions in Ohio in 2020 were in their 20s — 59% — followed by women in their 30s, 29%. It’s also not surprising that 62% of women had an abortion before they were nine weeks pregnant, while less than 2% had it after 19 weeks of pregnancy.
And, while it’s no surprise that single women are more likely to have abortions, in 2020 they were much more so. Ohio health statistics indicated that 82% of the 20,605 women who have had abortions in the state have never been married, separated, divorced or widowed.
But perhaps most striking about Ohio’s statistics was just how overrepresented black women were.
Ohio is only 13% Black, but black women had 48% of all abortions in 2020, the largest group. Whites, on the other hand, make up 82% of the state’s population, but white women made up only 44% of the group receiving abortions.
The fact that so many single, black women abort might suggest they didn’t believe they had the emotional and financial support they needed to raise a child—often on top of the children they already have. Also, more than 27% of black people in Ohio lived in poverty in 2020, compared to only 10% of whites.
However, there is evidence that at least nationally, poorer women are less likely to have abortions than their wealthier counterparts.
A 2015 study by the Brookings Institution found that while women living below the poverty line were much less likely to use contraception and more likely to become pregnant unintentionally, those who did were less likely to have an abortion.
Between 2011 and 2013, 32% of women earning four times the federal poverty level who had inadvertently become pregnant had abortions, according to the study. This compares to less than 9% of women living below the poverty line during the same period.
The cost could be something that drives poorer women away from the abortion clinic.
Planned Parenthood reports its cheapest early pregnancy procedure in Ohio costs $650. If so, new restrictions seem likely to drive up the cost, particularly if they require women to travel out of state for the procedure.
It seems important – with the United States Supreme Court apparently set to overturn the 1973 decision – to consider the consequences this could have for women who will not be able to have abortions and for society in general.
A paper published in 2020 by the National Bureau of Economic Research attempted to do so.
In it, two economists and a demographer used credit data to build on 2016 data. Rejection study, which followed 1,000 women who had sought abortions at 30 clinics across the country. Through follow-up interviews, this study sought to compare women who turned away from abortion with those who received it.
In the follow-up analysis, “The Economic Consequences of Abortion Denial,” the research team compared credit information between women who were denied abortions due to state gestational limits to those women who had an abortion but were within two weeks of these limits. She sought to examine the financial stress caused not only by the costs of having and raising a child, but also by “a well-documented large and persistent decline in income (i.e. the ‘child penalty’ ) that women experience on average after the birth of a child. »
The three researchers detected a lot of financial stress.
“We find that abortion denial resulted in an increase in the amount of debt 30 days or more overdue by $1,750, a 78% increase over their pre-birth average, and negative ‘public records’ on the credit report, such as bankruptcy. , evictions and tax liens, by approximately 0.07 additional records, an increase of 81%,” the newspaper said.
He added: “These effects are persistent over time, with high rates of financial distress observed in the year of birth and for all of the following 5 years for which we observe women. Our point estimates also suggest that being denied an abortion may reduce access to credit and self-sufficiency, particularly in the years immediately following birth, although these estimates are not always statistically significant.
Of course, the worst economic outcomes for these mothers and their babies don’t just affect them. They also affect all other children and family members that the woman takes care of.
Being forced to carry a child to term can also increase the chances that a child will be unwanted and can lead to poor societal outcomes, such as increased crime.
In 2001, economists John J. Donohue III and Steven Levitt published “The impact of legalized abortion on crimein the Quarterly Journal of Economics. He tried to explain the dizzying fall in crime in the 1990s from historic highs in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
After ruling out other decline theories, he concluded that the legalization of abortion in 1973 resulted in far fewer unwanted children and, as this cohort came of age, far less crime.
“Legalized abortion appears to account for up to 50% of the recent drop in crime,” he said.
The newspaper elicited a fierce response across the political spectrum. Some, including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomascompared it to the pseudo-science of eugenicswho advocated the sterilization of people with traits deemed “undesirable”.
In a Podcast 2019, Levitt said subsequent research has bolstered their earlier work. He also denied that his and Donohue’s research advocated forcing anyone to do anything.
“I actually think our article makes it very clear why this has nothing to do with eugenics,” Levitt said. “In our hypothesis, what happens is that abortion becomes legal, women have the right to choose and what the data suggests is that women are quite good at choosing when they can put on children in the world; when they can provide them with good environments.
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