Opinion: Texas Abortion Restrictions Only Make Poor People PoorerSeptember 13, 2021
by GSO President Amy Everitt
In what feels like an impossible nightmare, the US Supreme Court allowed Texas to enact its state law that effectively bans abortions after six weeks–before many people know they’re pregnant–clearly in conflict with Roe v Wade.
The Court’s decision to disregard precedent and established constitutional rights has widespread implications for reproductive justice and health care nationwide. Anti-choice legislators have already vowed to consider copycat laws in other states, and the Court will hear another abortion rights case later this year.
Allowing such an extreme law to take effect will have widespread economic implications for people who get pregnant and their families. One national study found that a majority of those who sought abortions did so because they couldn’t afford to support a child. Five years later, those who were denied abortion access were four times more likely to earn incomes below the poverty line than those who were able to end their pregnancies. They were also less likely to be employed and more likely to need public assistance. When people are denied the ability to decide if and when to have children, low-income families suffer most.
It’s tempting to feel insulated from anti-choice extremism because California law protects reproductive freedom and privacy. Yet even here, abortion access is limited–only 40% of California counties have an abortion provider, and many people cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for their reproductive health care. We, too, must be vigilant about unprecedented backdoor attacks on abortion rights and expand access to affordable care.
Anti-poverty organizations like mine have seen firsthand how low-income women have been disproportionately driven out of the workforce by layoffs and forced to make tough choices between child-rearing and employment. Families are already struggling to make ends meet, forced to bear the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. Limiting abortion access and reproductive health care will only hurt their financial well-being even more.
Recently, government officials have opened their hearts and checkbooks with billions of dollars in pandemic aid including the expanded Child Tax Credit, the expanded California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC), and state and federal stimulus checks. The investment has already started to pay off with record drops in poverty and hunger, especially for children. But this financial safety net is only temporary if Congress and state legislatures do not act.
The far-reaching abortion restrictions in Texas make the need for permanent anti-poverty solutions even more urgent. After all, the high costs of raising a child won’t suddenly disappear once the pandemic ends. Unless we step up with additional financial support for working families, people will struggle to afford life’s basic needs including food, housing, and health care through no fault of their own. No matter where they live, people deserve options and the ability to make the right decisions for themselves. That means making sure people have access to abortions, health care, and cash.
Amy Everitt serves as the president of Golden State Opportunity (GSO), a California-based nonprofit dedicated to ending poverty by providing all Californians with the tools to build financial well-being and thrive. She also served as Vice-President of Special Projects at NARAL Pro-Choice America and the State Director for NARAL Pro-Choice California for nearly two decades.