Low-wage working women bear the economic brunt of being denied abortions

The Texas mother of a child who was making less than her husband’s income was desperate to return to work but was struggling to care for the child. A young Florida warehouse worker left behind by a turbulent past of homelessness and abuse only to be mired in debt.

When both women found out they were pregnant, they came to the painful conclusion that they could not pass through it.

“When you try to discuss options, you get problems. If we could do that, where would the child be?” Alyssa Burns, warehouse worker who earns $16 an hour and was sharing a two-bedroom apartment with her boyfriend and another couple, when she found out she was pregnant last year. “We both work full-time jobs. My mom works. We can’t take care of the baby.”

There are a wide range of reasons women might try to terminate their pregnancies, but for those who are struggling to meet their needs, finances are essentially part of the calculation. Now many of them will be put in a position they cannot afford as abortion bans and restrictions apply in half of the country. The Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision Guaranteed abortion rights.

Alyssa Burns, 24, is photographed in a park on Friday, October 7, 2022 in Orlando, Fla. Getting pregnant and raising a child at work has always been difficult, but especially for low-paid workers. They are also more likely to work in physically demanding roles with less labor security and less flexibility than in high-paying jobs. When Burns, a warehouse worker who earns $16 an hour, found out she was pregnant, she came to the painful conclusion that she couldn’t go through with it.

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

Stories of horror, disbelief

Three-quarters of women seeking abortion are low-income, meaning their family income is less than or double the federal poverty level, according to a 2014 study by the Guttmacher Institute, a science-based research group that supports abortion rights. According to a study. More than half already have children and many work in physically demanding roles with less labor security and less flexibility than in high-paying jobs.

“A salaried worker with benefits is the type of person who typically finds a way out, with or without the support of their employer,” said Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College who studies fertility and the economy. “We are talking about a really financially vulnerable group of workers, often hourly workers, often shift workers with very unpredictable schedules for whom it becomes really overwhelming.”

Burns, 24, was able to expedite a pregnancy she was older than six weeks in March 2021 because Florida had no law against it at the time and the state’s current law prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks. But she said she is haunted by the idea that in a different state and a different time, she might be forced to have a child.

The Texas mother was terrified of this prospect. She found out she was pregnant last September, just like a Texas law banning all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

Like Burns, the 30-year-old hairstylist said, “I was so broken. I didn’t understand it was happening.” Corpus Christi Community. “I can’t stand this baby. I’m already struggling with a baby.”

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In the end, she was able to have an abortion in New Mexico with the financial help of Planned Parenthood. Still, she and her husband spent $1,000 in expenses, including $500 to rent the car. Her husband had to take unpaid time off from his job as a cell phone tower maintenance worker.

If it weren’t for the Texas ban, she said she could have gone to a clinic 20 minutes away. Indeed, for many women living in states that ban abortions, the average travel distance to the nearest clinic exceeds 35 miles, according to Myers’ analysis of a national database of abortion facilities. Will be 272 miles.

Push to widen the safety net

Many anti-abortion advocates say the answer is not to make it easier to terminate a pregnancy, but to widen the safety net and make it easier to have children. They argue that Roe v. Wade hurt working women by discouraging employers and the government to enact more liberal benefits for parenting.

“Abortion has been a privileged response to the plight of female poverty and low-wage workers in this country,” said anti-abortion legal scholar Erica Bachicho. More pressure should be applied to conservative states to strengthen policies around parental leave. child care.

But the research tells a different story. Carrying an unwanted pregnancy quadruples the odds that a woman and her child will live below the federal poverty line, according to The Turnaway Study, a University of California San Francisco research project that tracks women who have access to abortion. received, which were denied. them over a period of 10 years. This triples the chances of a woman becoming unemployed.

Denial of abortion often leads to increased rates of unpaid debt, poverty, evictions and bankruptcy over the next five years, according to a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which used Turnaway Study data to examine credit history. is used to. Women who could not have an abortion.

Those were some of the risks faced by Burns, who left home at 18 and finished high school while homeless. Although she had found some stability by the time she became pregnant, she was still paying more than $7,000 in debt after breaking her rental lease a few years ago when she left an abusive relationship.

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hardest place to raise kids

Earlier this year, a Texas hairstylist moved with her parents to Corpus Christi as life got too expensive in Austin, where her monthly rent rose from $1,400 to $1,600 and her daughter was given child care. Keeping it in cost $600 per week. Her husband, who earns $50,000 a year with overtime, will join her after the lease expires. With her parents able to see their child, she was able to go back to work two days a week.

“We’ve been playing catch-up for the longest time,” she said.

Kathryn R., an anti-abortion assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Catholic University of America. Pakluk acknowledges the unique difficulties for low-income women, but does not believe that abortion is the right answer.

“It’s hard to have a child when you’re poor. But I don’t think that eliminating a child conceived in difficult circumstances serves the interest of the poor or the interest of the elite,” Pakluk said. “That’s why any kind of policy making should focus 100% on the poor.”

In fact, however, according to an analysis of federal data by The Associated Press, states with some of the country’s strictest abortion laws are among the most difficult places to raise children, especially for the poor. In Mississippi, for example, access to antenatal and postpartum care has decreased since the Supreme Court’s decision in June, making childbirth even more dangerous for poor women and children.

There is also a large disparity between the benefits that employers provide to low-income workers versus high-income workers. According to the most recent survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 6% of private industry workers with an average salary in the lowest 10% had access to paid family leave, compared to 43% of workers in the top 10%. year. And according to a Labor Department study conducted in March, only 38% of private industry workers with the bottom 10% of pay get sick leave, compared to 96% in the top 10%.

Burns said she and her boyfriend eventually dream of having a family but that they need stability first. She has been able to go to the dentist for the first time in her life, have cavities filled, have wisdom teeth removed and a few crowns installed, and have accumulated more debt that would have been difficult to handle with a child.

Burns said, “We spent the last year and a half trying to get our financial stuff together and our health together, trying to get to the point where we could probably do that and take the baby out of our problems. Do not harm.” ,

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