The Economic Consequences of Restricting Abortion Rights

Positive pregnancy test with sad woman.
Yana Rodgers, from the School of Management and Labor Relations, co-wrote a series of studies on the economics of abortion that explored the economic consequences associated with restricting women’s access to abortion.

If the leaked draft opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade stands, women will soon lose their constitutional right to have an abortion.

Decisions about the legality of the medical procedure will go back to state legislators. It is anticipated that existing bans and “trigger laws” will take effect in 26 states, thus outlawing abortion. To understand the economic repercussions, Rutgers Today spoke with Yana Rodgers, professor with Rutgers-New Brunswick’s School of Management and Labor Relations. 

Last year, Rodgers co-wrote a series of studies published in PLOS One and summarized in History and scientific background on the economics of abortion that explored the economic consequences associated with restricting women’s access to abortion. 

How would restrictions on abortion access affect women in the workplace and their well-being?  

Women who are denied an abortion because of restrictive laws not only are less likely to be employed full time, they are also more likely to live in poverty and to require public assistance compared to women who obtain abortions.

Women who are able to delay childbirth until they have greater economic and emotional security are able to have closer relationships with their children and raise them in relatively better economic circumstances, with fewer indicators of delayed child development.

Will restrictions on abortion access have an impact on the workforce as a whole?

At the macroeconomic level, restricting access to abortion has negative spillover effects for women’s educational attainment and labor supply. If anything, abortion law liberalization in the U.S. with Roe v. Wade had an even stronger effect than the introduction of the birth control pill on women’s decisions to delay marriage and childbirth and advance in the workforce.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned and some states make abortion illegal, how will that impact women in underserved populations?

Restrictions on access to abortion in the United States have disproportionately impacted low-income women and women of color. Growing evidence shows that restrictions on abortion exacerbate existing disparities in unintended pregnancy rates for marginalized communities.

How would restrictions on abortion impact women’s health and access to proper care?  

Restrictive abortion laws increase the time it takes to reach and receive abortion services and can lead to significant delays in care-seeking, which in turn impact the type of care sought and the gestational age at which care is obtained.  This increases risks for women's health and raises the cost of obtaining abortion services. Forcing those who are pregnant to delay an abortion endangers their physical health, as individuals who have abortions in the second trimester face a greater risk of hemorrhage and other complications like uterine perforation.

Do restrictive abortion laws lower abortion rates?

There is no conclusive and consistent relationship between strict abortion laws and women’s likelihood of having an abortion. If anything, more restrictive laws are associated with more unsafe abortions, a leading cause of maternal mortality. We cannot afford to return to an era of unsafe abortions.