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The abortion debate, it doesn't usually focus on economics. But if Roe v. Wade is overturned, many women denied the procedure would face enormous financial consequences. NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports.
JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Like most women seeking an abortion, Brittany Mostiller already had children when she unexpectedly got pregnant again.
BRITTANY MOSTILLER: I had two young daughters, both under the age of 5, sharing a two-bedroom apartment with my sister.
LUDDEN: And she'd just been laid off from her overnight job as a greeter for Greyhound buses.
MOSTILLER: All of my unemployment, you know, benefits had to go towards rent, trying to figure out utilities. I'm not even sure I had a cellphone at that point - or if I did, it was certainly on and off.
LUDDEN: Mostiller worried about finding another job while pregnant. But mostly, she didn't want to sacrifice the well-being of her two children by having a third she simply could not afford. As it turned out, she couldn't afford an abortion either. And in Illinois at that time, 15 years ago, it was not covered by Medicaid. Soon after giving birth to a third daughter, she started work as a cashier but could only get 20 hours a week.
MOSTILLER: Like, defaulting on student loans that I was navigating.
LUDDEN: Then she defaulted on credit card payments. At one point, she juggled three jobs trying to make it all work. Mostiller's worries about poverty are widely shared among women seeking abortions and for good reason, says Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College. She says a large body of research shows being able to access an abortion offers a major boost to women's economic prospects.
CAITLIN MYERS: Allowing them, in turn, to obtain more education, to enter more professional careers, to avoid poverty and also providing those same economic advantages to the children that they parented later.
LUDDEN: In the abortion case before the Supreme Court, Myers spearheaded an amicus brief by 154 economists. But she says their findings seem to have been ignored. In fact, the leaked draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito cites arguments by abortion opponents that it's easier now to get benefits like paid leave. Myers says that's just not true for most women seeking abortions.
MYERS: This population of women is disproportionately poor, lacks access to paid parental leave, lacks access to affordable child care even if they can schedule the childcare, because a lot of these women work in what's called shift work with very irregular schedules that make obtaining child care very difficult.
LUDDEN: Of course, abortion opponents see all this differently. When Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a recent Senate panel that overturning Roe would set women back decades, she drew this rebuke from South Carolina Republican Tim Scott.
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TIM SCOTT: Did you say that ending the life of a child is good for the labor force participation rate?
LUDDEN: He called it harsh to frame the painful reality of abortion that way. Plus...
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SCOTT: I'll just simply say that as a guy raised by a Black woman in abject poverty, I'm thankful to be here as a United States senator.
LUDDEN: But his success story is not the norm when those who seek an abortion are denied one. Economist Jason Lindo, with Texas A&M University, says the financial fallout extends well into the lives of such women's children.
JASON LINDO: There is a huge empirical literature showing that there are detrimental effects on these kids' outcomes. When they grow up, they're less likely to attain higher education themselves. They're more likely to be involved in crime, have lower adult earnings.
LUDDEN: He says cutting off abortion access for more people would mean widening already stark economic disparities for generations to come.
Jennifer Ludden, NPR News, Washington.
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