Sisterhood Blog

Why Combining Abortion with Austerity Is Wrong

By Sarah Seltzer

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For years now at the Sisterhood we’ve been following a series of rollbacks of abortion rights and contraceptive access known as the War on Women. Despite losses at the voting booth and public opinion, far right wing legislators can’t stop and won’t stop pushing laws and regulations that hurt women and threaten providers. Resistance is everywhere: in Texas, 700 citizens staged a people’s filibuster against a last-minute anti-abortion bill, testifying late into the night and verging on large-scale civil disobedience. And yet anti-choice forces remain dogged and determined. Ohio and Wisconsin have also seen new anti-choice legislation and the House of Representatives passed a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks, a big slap in the face to Roe and reproductive rights.

For every bit of bad law that is staved off, more trickles in. And where they’re trickling in, trickle-down economics is also often becoming the law of the land. In a piece about Kansas as the ne plus ultra of new far right red-governed states, Mark Binnelli at Rolling Stone notes that abortion restrictions go hand in hand with economic policies that lead to the removal of safety nets. In Kansas this includes a proposed “radical, deeply regressive tax scheme.”

When free market capitalism runs amok, state services are cut in the name of “austerity,” and abortion services are also cut, you have a recipe for a lot of unplanned pregnancies for women in dire financial straits. And that means both more DIY abortions with the potential for dangerous consequences, as well as more women who simply don’t terminate and are raising children in reduced circumstances.

A study from the Diana Greene Foster with group called ANSIRH, written up a few weeks ago in the New York Times Magazine, looked at outcomes for “turnaways,” women who are denied abortions because they’ve come to the clinic too late. While psychologically most women do adjust to motherhood and their children, the health and economic consequences they face are undoubtedly worse.

Adjusting for any previous differences between the two groups, women denied abortion were three times as likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years later. Having a child is expensive, and many mothers have trouble holding down a job while caring for an infant. Had the turnaways not had access to public assistance for women with newborns, Foster says, they would have experienced greater hardship.

The thing is that the same groups who are trying to outlaw abortions, like the Kansas folks, and create thousand more “turnaways” also want to cut back on that public assistance. So the combined effect of these two sets of policies is to condemn more and more women, children and families to a cycle of forced pregnancy followed by unaided lives in poverty.


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