Economics of Abortion

By: Aaron Shaykevich  |  May 12, 2022

By Aaron Shaykevich, Opinions Editor

The right to have an abortion has been under fire recently in the wake of a leaked memo suggesting that the United States Supreme Court will repeal Roe v. Wade. According to a recent study, about 28% of Americans support repealing Roe. Many of those in favor of overturning Roe may be so inclined as they believe abortion to be equivalent to murder. One poll found that 31% of Americans strongly agree with the statement that “abortion is the same as murdering a child.” As with many polarizing debates, it is highly unlikely one will be able to have a productive conversation or persuade somebody who feels this way to believe otherwise. However, as someone majoring in the economics of health and science, it feels imperative to me that we look at the right to abortion from a different angle. Putting the question of life aside, there is still a necessary conversation about the economic impact of abortion access for those on the fence about the merits of Roe. 

Access to abortion is proven to have a direct positive benefit for young pregnant women. For women who had a pregnancy between the ages of fifteen and twenty-three, access to abortion increased years of education by 6% compared to those without access. For women who had a pregnancy between the ages of fifteen and nineteen, it has been found that later in life those who had access to an abortion are 38% more likely to be a part of the workforce. Women who were pregnant in that age group and had access to an abortion have also been found to have a 37% increase in pay later in life compared to those without access. 

One could argue that if a child is born instead of aborted, it can add economic value to society in the long run when it joins the labor force. This is supported by the findings of the United States Social Security Office which has found that “declining fertility rates and increasing life expectancies are causing the U.S. population to age,” which will inevitably lead to a “declining worker-to-beneficiary ratio.” Therefore, by limiting or restricting abortions, more people can carry the burden of caring for the increasing elderly population.

However, a study comparing children born before and after Roe found that people born after Roe were more likely to go to college and less likely to be on welfare. The study reasons that this is because more children will grow up in an environment in which they are wanted. This shows that in locations where abortion is accessible, and women can have children when they feel they are ready, their child(ren) will be likely to have more knowledge, thus increasing their human capital. In fact, another study, comparing children born due to a denied abortion and children born subsequent to their mother having an abortion, found that children of denied abortions have worse maternal bonding and are more likely to live in poverty. 

Many in the U.S. argue against the usage of federal or state funds for abortion access. In fact, the U.S. has had a clause in spending bills since the 1980s called the Hyde amendment, which has prohibited federal funding of abortion unless the life of the pregnant mother is at risk or in a case of rape or incest. 

This approach shifts the cost of the abortion to the mother as many insurances do not cover abortions. Only around 23% of women in the U.S. did not pay out of pocket for their abortions. The average cost for women who had paid was $485, not including loss of work which can add another couple hundred dollars depending on their employment status. Seeing that almost 50% of abortion patients have a family income below the poverty level, and since the decision to have an abortion is elastic to price, the high cost is likely to deter many from getting a safe abortion. A high cost of abortion can be just as harmful as restrictive laws on abortion. 

It is clear that due to preventative laws on abortion many will choose to have unsafe abortions. In developing countries with strict abortion laws, a large part of the obstetrics and gynecology budget is spent on post-abortion care due to complications. If states in the United States choose to ban abortions, the inevitable increase in unsafe abortions and the need for post-abortion care will create a cost that could have entirely been avoided. 

The risks of unsafe abortions as well as the economic and health burden they impose will be drastic. There are states that will likely always provide access to abortion, and they will inevitably carry the expense of providing for women in states that will ban abortion. Unfortunately, young women whose parents do not support abortion will not be able to exercise this option. 

With the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, the lives and welfare of many will now be put at risk due to those that consider themselves pro-life. The clear benefits of abortion access, coupled with the horrifying risks of unsafe abortion, should inspire people to think of abortion access as a clear public health necessity.