In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe vs. Wade, numerous intense debates on abortion have erupted in the United States and elsewhere. Abortion advocates, including the US Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, have asserted that restricting abortion will have a negative impact on the economy. Various media networks have reiterated these warnings, allegedly backed up by studies showing a causal link between abortion access and economic prosperity. Alliance VITA has examined these studies to check whether this claim and the resulting conclusions are reliable.
Is there a causal link between abortion access and the long-term economic well-being of women and children?
Janet Yellen’s assertions are mainly based on a brief written by 154 economists in September 2021 and submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court during the debates on the constitutionality of the Mississippi abortion law. The economists’ brief contends that the availability of abortion, when detached from other factors, “is causally linked to the ability of women to participate in economic and social life”. But although the causal link method, used to measure the impact of abortion legalization on the economic development of women, shows a link between abortion and demography, no causal link with the economy can be established, unless one considers low birth rates as a determining impetus for economic well-being.
In addition, an article published in 1996, based on economic data from 1960 demonstrated that legalizing abortion significantly affected the education levels and the employment rates for Black teenagers but not their wages. Abortion legalization had no impact whatsoever on White teenagers. In contrast, this study found a significant but unexplained link between legalizing abortion and an increase in wages for White men.
Many publications have regularly focused on how having a child penalizes a woman’s income level, her career and her participation in the labor market.
Nonetheless, the Treasury Secretary has neglected a crucial point which is the lack of federal assistance for mothers. Yet, as the Myers report points out, abortion could be prevented for poorer women if social policies were implemented to assist them with the financial costs of motherhood.
Is there a causal link between abortion access and children’s long-term economic well-being?
Regarding claims that children’s well-being is improved in states where abortion is not restricted, it turns out, that no causal link can be established between the jurisprudence established by Roe vs Wade and socio-economic markers. These findings are based on a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) which measured poverty rates, recourse to social assistance, and school drop-out rates. The economic development for future generations appears to depend more on the different resources and assets between the various states rather than any differences in the states’ abortion legislations.
Is there a short-term economic impact when abortion is denied?
Studies, such as the well-known Turnaway Studies, provide data on the short-term economic impact of being denied an abortion in the second trimester of pregnancy. On average, this particular group of women who are being denied second-trimester abortions, (younger, less employable women with generally fewer children), are confronted with high financial expenses due to the new baby. In the United States, annual early childhood expenses average $ 11,000 per child. However, this higher expense is not for a long period of time. These short-term costs for raising children from newborns to age 3 is a relevant factor for all women caring for their children but its’ relevance is particularly emphasized by the fact that women undergoing very late-term abortions are notably less well-off financially compared to the general population.
Can the effects of some particular categories of abortion restrictions be extended to include all women who abort?
The economic studies presented have focused on specific and particularly vulnerable female populations such as adolescents, those requesting second trimester abortions, those in extremely precarious situations or Black women. But these specific categories do not give an accurate portrayal of women in the U.S. seeking abortion. Indeed, the typical American woman who has an abortion is far different from the aforementioned profiles which were used to project these dire economic consequences.
Alliance VITA’s spokesman Tugdual Derville declares: “The general conclusions from these studies, which allege that extending abortion access results in an economic benefit, are biased. The methods are questionable since they are based on sparce, fragmented data, which is not up to date, and derived from a non-homogeneous population. Any elements that don’t correspond to the stated narrative are excluded. In the United States, a more widespread utilitarian, liberal ideology prevails, which some might even qualify as being eugenic. Social programs in support of motherhood and families are either ignored or rejected, in order to discourage disadvantaged families from having too many children.”
The full analysis is available here.