Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court denied access to comprehensive health care for millions of people in the United States when they overturned the constitutional right to abortion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.
Currently abortions are legal and protected in Minnesota under the state’s constitution due to the Minnesota Supreme Court Case Doe v. Gomez. But many people across the country, including in our neighboring states, cannot access their full reproductive and health care rights or may have to travel and undergo significant costs and strains to do so. As the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits recently noted
, the recent decision will do the greatest harm to those who already face the greatest barriers to opportunity, including lower-income, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), and LGBTQIA+ people. The ability to choose whether, how, and when to have a child can impact a person’s physical and mental health, and have long-term consequences on their earnings and economic status.
Who gets abortion care
Access to abortion is a critical component of the full range of health care options for women, transgender, and non-binary folks with uteruses.* Abortions are safe; 99 percent of abortions performed in Minnesota in 2020 had no complications during the procedure.
People may get abortions for many reasons, including because they don’t want to add a child or another child to their family. In other cases, they might deeply want a child but may need care to treat a miscarriage or for other health reasons. In Minnesota, more than one-third of folks who received abortions were over 30 years old. The most cited reasons for the procedure were that the individual didn’t want more children at that time, economic reasons, or their emotional or physical health was at stake. Even with access to medical care, pregnancy in the United States can bring up a variety of health complications which can be harmful or sometimes fatal to the pregnant person.
Access to abortion supports economic stability for families
Abortion and reproductive rights are deeply intertwined with economic rights. The ability to choose when or whether to have a child is a key element for people being able to choose a wider range of jobs, and move up the economic ladder through better professional trajectories.
Denying the right to choose when to have children can create economic hardship that can last for several years. According to the groundbreaking Turnaway study
, people who were not able to access abortion and then gave birth experienced years of financial instability, including not having enough money “to cover basic living expenses like food, housing, and transportation.” The study showed that six months after giving birth, parents who were denied abortions were nearly four times more likely to be living in poverty than those individuals who sought and received an abortion procedure. Even four years later, people who were not able to access their full reproductive health options were more likely to be living below the poverty line compared with people who were able to access abortions.
Being denied abortion care is also correlated with having lower credit scores and an increased amount of debt. On average, the debt of individuals who were denied an abortion increased 78 percent compared to before they gave birth.
Many who opt to receive an abortion already have a child or plan to have a child at a time in their life when they have the financial, emotional, and familial stability they need. Nationally, about 60 percent of people who seek abortions already have children; about one-third of people seeking an abortion do so because they want to be able to take good care of the children they already have. Children living in families where a parent was not able to receive an abortion are more likely to live in poverty, even four years later.
In contrast, folks who wanted and received an abortion “are more financially stable, set more ambitious life goals, raise children under more stable conditions, and are more likely to have a wanted child later.”
Supreme Court decision will especially harm low-income and BIPOC Minnesotans
Lower-income people and BIPOC folks already face more barriers to affording and receiving the health care services they need, and as a whole see worse health outcomes. BIPOC folks also are disproportionately likely to have lower incomes because historic and current policies that limit their access to educational and employment opportunities. As a result, the Supreme Court decision will disproportionately harm low-income and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. Nationally, three-quarters of those who seek abortions are low-income (defined as having incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $46,060 for a family of 3, for example). Here in Minnesota, while almost one-quarter of the state’s population are people of color, people of color make up roughly half of those who access abortions.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, legal abortion is “associated with reduced maternal mortality for Black women. The ability to delay having a child has been found to translate to significantly increased wages and labor earnings, especially among Black women, as well as increased likelihood of educational attainment.”
An amicus brief filed with SCOTUS by over 140 economists and academics noted that after legalization of abortion, Black women experienced between a 28 and 40 percent drop in maternal mortality. They note that this impact “aligns with historical narratives that, pre-legalization, white women were more often able to access clandestine abortions through trusted physicians or travel to repeal states. Accordingly, the practical importance of legalization was greater for Black women than white women.”
In addition, many of the states that have (or are about to have) abortion bans and extreme limits on abortion services lack adequate health and economic policies for low-income folks to make ends meet. In these states, the average minimum wage is $8.39 per hour, three dollars lower than the minimum wage in states that do allow abortion. Nearly 40 percent of the states with abortion bans have not expanded affordable health care coverage through Medicaid, which means that pregnant people, infants, and their families might not be able to get the basic health care they need.
Abortion access is crucial to the health and economic well-being of families and our communities
People need access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including being able to choose abortion, to thrive. The reversal of the constitutional right to abortion has taken away the ability to make basic choices about one’s own body, family, and future from people across the country. Minnesotans’ right to abortion must be protected; Minnesotans can vote and talk to their elected representatives about the importance of protecting comprehensive health care so that all Minnesotans can receive the care they need that allows them and their families to thrive. Policymakers at the federal level should immediately take steps to protect the full range of reproductive health options, including abortion.
*Because people with a variety of genders benefit from abortion access, we do not use gendered language (such as “women”) to refer to people who receive abortions. However, much of the data collected about abortion usage refers solely to women, and in those cases we reference or quote those sources with their gendered language.