HONOLULU, Hawaii — A study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute earlier this February discovered that abortion rates in the United States were the lowest they have ever been since the Roe v. Wade decision, 41 years ago. Simultaneously, information was revealed that indicated women who sought out abortion, but were denied access to it, were three times more likely to fall below the poverty line.
Tracy Weitz, an expert on abortion rights and a professor at the University of California in San Francisco, led a study of her own, which researched information along the same lines as was investigated by the Guttmacher Institute. Her research is part of what is called the Turnaway Study, which recruited 1,000 pregnant women who were at the same point in their pregnancy, and lived within 150 miles of an abortion clinic.
Out of the thousand women in this study, 250 of them were denied the abortion they sought out. Weitz established that the most common motive for attempting to terminate their pregnancy was because they knew they could not financially afford to raise a child.
The 250 women who were denied abortion had no other choice but to have the baby. Not only was this emotionally taxing, but also financially, as many could not afford it. According to the Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child until they turn 18 is about $241,080.
Weitz’s research, which also monitors the long-term effects of these women, found that “Two years later, women who had a baby they weren’t expecting to have, compared to the women who had the abortion they wanted, are three times more likely to be living in poverty.”
About half of pregnancies among U.S. women are unintended and about 21 percent of pregnancies end in abortion.
The gap between the unintended pregnancies and the percentage of women who obtain abortions leaves room for curiosity about the struggles these women face. Constant controversy over the topic of abortion in the U.S. due to religious and ethical views has been the main force behind women being denied abortions, and often times, conservative politicians fight for tougher restrictions on abortion, making it seemingly difficult in states such as Texas, to acquire one.
The findings of this study support that women are three times more likely to fall into poverty. This is a positive correlation, as poor women are also more five times more likely to have an unintended pregnancy.
Poverty from having a child even though abortion is supposedly legal in this country is something that is absolutely preventable. The U.S. government, more so on a state level, needs to reevaluate the restrictions imposed unlawfully against a woman’s will when she becomes pregnant.
They are viewed as more of a vessel with the viable life inside, rather than an autonomous human with rights.
Does this Affect Poverty Levels in Other Countries?
While generalizing this exact study to all countries would be problematic, a similar concept is worth looking into in regards to the effects that lack of access to abortion and poor healthcare have on poverty levels.
Poverty levels are high in developing countries, and healthcare is often not as advanced, leaving countries without the capabilities required for women’s reproductive health.
Studying Ethiopia as an example, it has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates. About 350 mothers die for every 100,000 live births, surmounting to about 20,000 maternal deaths a year. Roughly nine in 10 births do not have a skilled healthcare attendant, let alone an approved healthcare facility. This is partially due to the lack of healthcare equipment and also the detail that Ethiopians spend one of the lowest amounts towards their health in the world.
One in seven women die from pregnancy-related causes in Ethiopia. Women also lack the education on contraceptives that would help reduce unintended pregnancies. The nonprofit group, Health Poverty Action, has actually found that pastoralist or rural areas have even higher numbers, meaning higher maternal death rates and even less option for contraceptives or abortion.
While abortion technically became legal in Ethiopia in 2004, it is only for extenuating circumstances, including the life of the mother being endangered by her pregnancy, women with physical or mental disabilities, minors who are unprepared, and if pregnancy resulted from rape and/or incest.
The pregnancy can also be terminated if there are fetal abnormalities.
Despite the movement’s aims, it certainly has not helped women who face poverty due to lack of education on contraceptives, which caused unintended pregnancy. Rather than being able to choose whether or not they are financially capable of raising a child and therefore if they should terminate the pregnancy, they must have the child unless there is a biological issue.
This adds to the statistic of maternal deaths and unsafe, clandestine abortions.
This cyclical pattern of problems with women’s healthcare and rights in Ethiopia, along with the high levels of poverty and unintended pregnancies, is a prototypical example of other developing countries out there struggling as well.
Demands for Accessible Abortions, Decreasing Women in Poverty
Women’s rights issues are dependent on other variables and need to be addressed together. Education, access to food and water, safe health care and access to abortion are necessary steps to alleviating global poverty.
The Millennium Development Goals, which were organized and outlined by the United Nations in September of 2000, had outlined eight main objectives all pertaining to the ultimate goal of alleviating global poverty by 2015. With that date just around the corner, reviewing new statistics shows that a lot has been accomplished, but much still needs to be done.
The UN Millennium Development Goals have begun to plan beyond the year 2015. One of the main themes for this initiative is ‘leaving no one behind’. This encompasses women’s rights, so hopefully the concurrent fight for women’s equality, especially in developing areas, can help fight to eradicate poverty as well.
An important takeaway from this information is not only that maternal mortality and women without access to abortion often results in poverty, but that the U.S. has the materials and technology to be able to provide abortions for women who want them, but are still having trouble obtaining them due to views that breach a woman’s right to her own body.
With poverty and unintended pregnancies positively correlating, it seems that something needs to be done to fix this epidemic, whether it be in a developing country like Ethiopia, or in an established and advanced country the United States.
– Danielle Warren