Dr. Sharee Livingston, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at UPMC in Lititz, Lancaster County, speaks at a rally for abortion rights Monday, 10/24/2022, at the Pennsylvania Capitol.
By Signe Espinoza
The election is nearing and nearly every day, we see a new poll. Voters are asked over and over again who they’ll be voting for, and what the most important issues are in that decision.
For a few months, the top two answers to that latter question have been the economy and abortion but now as the election gets closer, coverage and analysis has pit those two top considerations against each other. I want to be very clear, we aren’t thinking about the economy OR abortion; legal access to abortion is an economic issue.
Whether, when and how to begin a family is the most transformative economic decision that an individual can make in their life. Let’s remember that adoption is not an alternative to pregnancy, but an alternative to parenting. So, if one is forced by the state legislature to carry a pregnancy to term, there are undeniable economic considerations.
First, the pregnant person needs to have health insurance, rarely offered for free by employers. Prenatal care requires many, many appointments with a specialist.
Dismissing access to abortion a 'social issue' or a 'moral issue' is an affront to hundred financial decisions that are made throughout pregnancy.
– Signe Espinoza
The patient needs to find a practice with availability. Between weeks 4 and 28, they will need an appointment every month. Between weeks 28 and 36, these appointments need to be biweekly. After 36 weeks, they move to weekly. This all requires a job that allows at least an hour off for each appointment. If paid leave isn’t an option, they have the choice to skip essential prenatal care or forego wages for at least 10 appointments, assuming a very normal, easy pregnancy.
Our hypothetical pregnant person also must hold a job that is compatible with pregnancy. Not everyone has a job that is safe for pregnancy, and jobs that require heavy labor or long hours standing are not recommended, particularly later in gestation. Again, the person must consider whether to risk the health of the pregnancy or leave their job – another major financial consideration.
Now, for argument’s sake, let’s assume our patient has chosen adoption. Childbirth is incredible traumatic on the body under the best circumstances.
Recovery from vaginal birth takes, on average, six to eight weeks and longer for C-section deliveries. C-section deliveries also require three to four additional days in the hospital following the birth, and nearly one in three babies are delivered that way. Health insurance very rarely covers the full cost of the delivery and subsequent hospital stay.
There is no requirement in Pennsylvania for employers to provide paid maternity leave, so what is our mother now to do? She can take as much unpaid time as her employer allows, lose her job, or return quickly to work at extreme risk to her own health, recovery and ability to carry future pregnancies to term.
Forcing anyone to carry an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy to term bears incredible financial cost, and this is hardly ever discussed by the abortion ban advocates. There are few supports available to make up for lost wages or work through pregnancy, let alone after.
That’s a very micro review of the cost of forced pregnancy, and on the macro level a recent study by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) found that a total abortion ban in Pennsylvania would likely reduce wages in the state by $10 billion per year.
Surveys show that one of the most common reasons someone chooses abortion is financial hardship, and abortion restrictions disproportionately impact people living at or near poverty.
From the PBPC report: “In all, around 75 percent of abortion patients are poor or low income. Adding a child during a time of financial instability often plunges individuals and families into deeper or chronic poverty, unable to work their way out of persistent hardship as disadvantages accumulate. Children who grow up in chronically poor families are much more likely to live in poverty as adults themselves.”
Adding tens of thousands of children to an existing child care shortage, formula is inaccessible and lactation breaks are nearly non-existent, and these factors among others force mothers out of the workforce for years.
Separating abortion from economics as driving factors in this election is naïve, and insulting to the women who know all too well the financial cost of interfering with their reproductive health care.
Dismissing access to abortion a “social issue” or a “moral issue” is an affront to hundred financial decisions that are made throughout pregnancy – let alone the thousands of financial decisions in raising a child.
In this election, it’s not about the economy or abortion; it’s both.
Our economic freedom is tied to our reproductive freedom, and women vote with that understanding.
Signe Espinoza is the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania.
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