What Happens To Women Who Can’t Get Abortions
With the increased number of restrictions on getting an abortion and on the clinics themselves, more women will be having access problems and may not even be able to get an abortion. As usual, it is poorer women who will suffer most in those situations, but this article explains the longer term economic problems that may also result.
"A new study offers a potent reminder of what really matters when it comes to economically empowering women: access to abortion.
Women who are blocked from getting abortions face significant financial distress, including higher amounts of debt and increased rates of bankruptcy and eviction, according to a groundbreaking working paper published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
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The economic fallout of being unable to get an abortion and carrying a baby to term lasts for years, they found, when compared with women who have abortions ― and, crucially, compared with those who choose to have an abortion and then go on to have a child later.
In other words, women are suffering financially not simply because they’ve had a child but because they were forced to do so at a time when they weren’t ready or prepared.
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What makes the study released last week so valuable is a revolutionary data set from UC San Francisco, known as the U.S. Turnaway Study, a survey of about 1,000 women. About 800 of them showed up at 30 abortion clinics in 21 states a few weeks within the gestation time limits set by their state and the clinic, ranging from 10 to 26 weeks pregnant. (The researchers also tracked about 200 women who had abortions in their first trimester, as a control group.)
About 260 of these women were turned away. Of those, 68% carried their pregnancy to term and 32% were able to get an abortion elsewhere, miscarried or had a stillbirth. Another group of women were able to get an abortion.
Researchers recruited these women in 2008 and 2010 and tracked them for five years to find out what their lives were like, calling them up every six months to check in.
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In previous studies, Foster and the other researchers tracking these women found that the ones who are turned away from getting abortions have worse mental health in the short term and poorer physical health in the long term if they gave birth.
Women who were turned away also faced an increased risk of physical violence from the man involved in their pregnancy.
Two women who were unable to get abortions died from health-related complications. None of the women who were in the group that got abortions died.
“That’s a horrific death rate, about 1%. About 100 times higher than our national mortality rate,” Foster said, emphasizing that the costs of not getting an abortion aren’t just economic. “The risks of continuing pregnancy are really overlooked in our culture.”
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Both groups of women, those who were turned away and the “near-limit” group who made it just before the gestational time limit to the clinic, look similar financially. A majority were in poverty, Miller said.
Because of their more tenuous financial circumstances, it wasn’t surprising that they tended to show up later at an abortion clinic.
These women might take longer to put together the money for care or, especially with fewer and fewer clinics, to plan the logistics of getting to the facility and taking time off work. Fifty-eight percent of the women who were turned away said travel and procedure costs were causes for the delay.
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Though they start out similarly, the women’s economic fortunes started to diverge at the point where some were turned away from the clinic. Those women saw the amount of debt they had that was 30 days or more past due increase by 78% compared with the women who had accessed abortion.
The Turnaway Study also saw an 80% increase in what it called “court actions,” i.e., bankruptcies, evictions and tax liens.
“You can’t deny the economic consequences of reproductive access in health care,” Miller said.
Miller and her co-authors also wondered if there was any difference in the financial stress faced by the women who were forced to carry their babies to term, compared with the financial stress of simply having a child.
They were able to track women who received abortions and went on later to have another child. They found that their financial picture was not nearly as bad as in the Turnaway Study group.
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Miller said that often women are turned away from clinics later in their pregnancy not simply because they’re past the state’s gestational limit but because the clinic doesn’t have a doctor on staff who can handle the procedure later on in the pregnancy.
In some cases, clinics in states where abortion is permitted up to 20 weeks would have only a nurse practitioner available who could handle abortions only up to 10 weeks."