What Do Abortion Restrictions Have to Do With Economic Justice?

Laws restricting abortion access have an economic cost, and that's part of the fight for reproductive justice and autonomy.

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According to IWPR's analysis, if all state-level abortion restrictions were eliminated, an additional 505,000 women aged 15 to 44 would enter the labor force and earn about $3 billion annually. Getty Images

This has already been a devastating year for abortion restrictions in the states.

At the end of April, seven states passed a record number of abortion restrictions in just four days.

As of May 16, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 47 states introduced 549 abortion restrictions, including 165 abortion bans. And 69 of those restrictions have been enacted in 14 states, including nine bans.

Policies that restrict reproductive health care cause immense, incalculable harm. There’s also a negative economic component that is less commonly recognized: These restrictions are very costly, to both state economies and to people who can become pregnant.

According to new research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR):

State-level abortion restrictions cost state economies $105 billion dollars per year—by reducing labor force participation and earnings levels and increasing turnover and time off from work among women ages 15 to 44 years.

IWPR’s analysis estimates that, on a national scale, if all state-level abortion restrictions were eliminated:

  • An additional 505,000 women aged 15 to 44 would enter the labor force and earn about $3.0 billion dollars annually.
  • Annual earnings for working women aged 15 to 44 would increase by $101.8 billion. On average, gains would amount to $1,610 per capita—with an impact from $0 in Vermont to $2,879 in Nebraska.
  • National GDP would be nearly 0.5 percent greater—ranging from zero percent in Vermont to over one percent in Missouri.

Earlier this month, as part of IWPR’s virtual event, “The Costs of Reproductive Health Restrictions: An Economic Case for Ending Harmful State Policies,” Rewire News Group President and Editor in Chief Galina Espinoza moderated a panel on reproductive health, freedom, and autonomy at the intersections of reproductive and economic justice.

She was joined by Herminia Palacio, president and CEO of Guttmacher Institute; Shannan Reaze, executive director of Atlanta Jobs with Justice; Ann Marie Benitez, senior director of government relations at National Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice; and Marcela Howell, founder and president of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.

Watch the panel below: