Overturning Roe undermines Americans’ economic security

The US Supreme Court’s apparent intention to overturn Roe v Wade strikes a calamitous blow against decades of legal precedent, dangerously impacting health, privacy, and self-determination for millions of Americans. In doing so, it also strikes a blow to Americans’ ability to manage their economic futures. Maine’s congressional delegation must stand up for the millions of impacted Americans and their financial stability by pledging now to codify Roe through federal legislation.

If the draft majority opinion stands, safe and legal abortion will be immediately outlawed in most cases in about half of the states triggered by state-level laws previously enacted by Republican legislators and governors. Denying access to comprehensive reproductive health services not only undermines health outcomes for women and children, it also degrades economic security, especially for women, and hurts our economy.

According to an amicus brief filed by more than 150 economists in the Mississippi case currently being considered by the Supreme Court, millions of Americans experience an unintended pregnancy. About one in four women will obtain an abortion in their lifetime. Of those, 75 percent have low income, 59 percent are already mothers, and 55 percent are experiencing disruptive life events such as losing a job. The economic impact hits quickly for women who do choose to become parents. Their earnings are reduced by more than one-third in one of the only countries in the world that still fails to mandate paid maternity leave. Add to that the sting of child care costs — the median is $10,400 per year for an infant — and it’s easy to see how forced pregnancy will send millions of Americans into economic crisis.

And despite Justice Alito’s assertions that the opinion overturning Roe will not impact access to birth control, plenty of legal analysts have charted that path. Access to birth control improves labor-force participation among women. It also enables parents — particularly women — to take better care of their families, pursue their education, and maintain employment. Historically, women with access to birth control have earned eight percent more per year than their peers without access.1

Mainers are luckier than many Americans. State lawmakers and Governor Mills responded to previous threats to comprehensive reproductive health services by solidifying reproductive protections in Maine law. But the freedom to determine one’s reproductive future should not be decided by what state you live in. These rights and protections should be available to all Americans and the only way to do this is to immediately pass federal legislation.


[1] Bailey M, Hershbein B, Miller A. The Opt-In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages, University of Michigan, May 13, 2012.