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A Six Week Abortion Ban is a Crisis for Working Families

Amy Traub

Alissa Vladimir contributed to this post.

On Tuesday, the Ohio state legislature passed a law to ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks after pregnancy. If signed by the governor, the law will not only be the most extreme abortion prohibition in the U.S. – an unconstitutional threat to women’s health and bodily integrity – it would also be a tremendous blow to the economic security of American families.

Six weeks after conception, many women do not yet realize they are pregnant. Tests that might reveal serious fetal abnormalities or severe threats to the health of a mother cannot be performed until weeks or months later. The proposed law has no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. Its stated rationale relies on distorted science.

This attack on women’s health and freedom is clear. But the ways in which the proposed ban – and other less radical restrictions on reproductive rights – constitutes an assault on working families has been less thoroughly explored.

Having a child is one of life’s most serious commitments, economically and otherwise. Without the ability to decide whether and when to become a parent, families’ economic security is always in jeopardy. An unintended pregnancy can upend financial stability, making it difficult for mothers to pursue education and maintain employment. Indeed, many women seeking abortions have low incomes and are already mothers, reporting that they were seeking to terminate a pregnancy because they could not afford to have a child. Yet obtaining an abortion is also costly, leading many women to face weeks of delay arranging for funding and transportation before they can obtain the procedure. As is the intention, a six-week ban would make access to abortion impossible for these women.

The Reproductive Health Technologies Project’s analysis of data on women turned away from clinics finds that women denied an abortion are substantially more likely to be in poverty two years later than those who received the care they needed:

At the time they presented at a clinic, the women turned away from the abortion care they sought were on similar socio-economic footing with the women who obtained abortions. However, two years later, according to preliminary analysis, women denied an abortion had three times greater odds of ending up below the federal poverty line, adjusting for any previous differences between the two groups.

It’s no accident that the same Ohio legislature enacting draconian abortion restrictions is also moving to disrupt the ability of city and county governments to raise their local minimum wages or implement local laws on fair scheduling in the workplace. Higher wages and sustainable schedules make it less arduous for working parents to care and provide for their children. Ohio has also slashed funding for health programs aimed at new mothers and their babies. Together, these measures radically restrict the ability of working Ohioans to support their families and attain economic stability.

Next week, Demos will release a report that further explores the economic constraints facing American parents, including the ways that restricted reproductive rights trap women and their families. We wish these findings were not so destructively dramatized by current events.