May 17, 2022 - News

How Arkansas' abortion ban could affect lower-income residents

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Further abortion restrictions will disproportionately affect poorer Arkansans, data suggests and local experts say.

Why it matters: If Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion will be illegal in Arkansas — except to save the pregnant person's life.

  • Neighboring states also plan to largely ban the procedure, meaning Arkansans will have to travel hundreds of miles if they want to access safe abortions.

The big picture: People with resources like transportation, higher incomes or health insurance, will be able to travel to other states and access legal abortions much easier than those without, Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas, told Axios.

  • "Wealthy women will continue to access abortion as they did before Roe v. Wade," she said.

Yes, and: Poorer residents will be faced with resorting to unsafe abortions or raising children they cannot afford. Parry said that could result in more child poverty and food insecurity.

  • Not being able to afford to raise a child or an additional one is a common reason why people get abortions. The majority of people — 59% — who have abortions already have at least one child.

What they're saying: "During the period of the late 1800s to the middle part of the 20th century when medical abortion was heavily restricted or prohibited, abortion was both common and dangerous," Parry said. "Abortion was dangerous, but especially for the poorest people. People with resources went to other countries or made special arrangements with a local hospital."

  • Poor women turned to unsafe measures such as sharp objects, drugs that caused death and birth defects and abortions by illegal providers. It wasn't uncommon for illegal providers to rape women seeking abortions, given they were at their mercy, she said.

Game changer: Medication abortions weren't available in 1973 when the Roe v. Wade ruling was made, but now they account for most abortions.

  • Patients up to 10 weeks pregnant can take a pill that induces a miscarriage.
  • The pill can be received by mail which allows people who don't have transportation to clinics or can't afford to travel to have safe abortions at home.

Of note: Arkansas prohibits publicly funded health insurance plans from covering abortions, except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. But individuals can purchase an optional rider at an additional cost, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

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