Oct 8, 2022 - Economy

The Dobb's effect on women's progress

Illustrated collage of a woman's face and the Supreme Court building surrounded by half circles

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

#MeToo may have advanced women's progress, but the Supreme Court's Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion is expected to roll back progress in other ways.

Why it matters: Lack of access to abortion care has major socioeconomic consequences for women, previous research shows, lowering their earnings, career prospects, educational advancement and even pushing them into poverty.

  • “Having a child often takes women out of the work force,” says Emily Johnston, senior research associate at the Urban Institute. It's often difficult to recover from that economic hit, leading to a lifetime of lower earnings.
  • That could also exacerbate the wage gap, she adds.

What's happening: It's still early days when it comes to understanding the economic consequences of Dobbs. While some are traveling further to access abortion care, others are expected to give birth.

  • It's likely that between 50,000 and 80,000 women who would've otherwise terminated their pregnancy this year will instead give birth, says Caitlin Knowles Myers, an economist at Middlebury College known for her work on abortion.
  • These are mostly lower-income women, who lack the resources to travel to access care — and for whom the financial fallout will likely be high.
  • "The very conditions that made them unable to travel also make them extremely vulnerable to the shocks that will follow from an unintended birth," Myers says.

Zoom out: The states with the most restrictive abortion laws typically already have worse economic conditions for women and families, notes a new report from the Democratic-led Joint Economic Committee. They also lack supportive policies such as paid family leave.

The other side: Abortion opponents argue that the moral consequences of the procedure outweigh any harms to women and children's economic status or health.

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