The Cost of Restricting Reproductive Rights

June 30, 2022

Alayna Van Tassel
Deputy Treasurer and Executive Director of the Office of Economic Empowerment

Last week, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which, for nearly 50 years, safeguarded a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. This opinion reversed decades of progress for women who have sought access to reproductive healthcare.  Protecting the right to bodily autonomy and making decisions for one’s life is fundamental to empowering all people – including women, transgender people, and non-binary people. Scaling back these rights will make it increasingly difficult for women to independently make personal decisions that will impact their economic wellbeing, impeding progress towards eliminating gender and racial wage inequity.

Bans on abortion and affordable reproductive healthcare will have disastrous economic consequences.  Throughout the Office of Economic Empowerment’s 2021 EqualPayMA Roundtable series, women leaders in Massachusetts hosted live webinars to discuss the status of the gender and racial wage gap. Our panelists consistently discussed how much of the unpaid childcare burden falls on women, the expensive cost of childcare, and how both of these issues widen the wage gap for women. A woman’s ability to control when or if she has children is closely connected to her ability to pursue the best possible options for her livelihood.

The health and economic consequences that come from a loss of reproductive rights will always impact women with lower incomes and women of color the most. Gender and racial wage gap data offered on our EqualPayMA website documents this harsh reality. Statistics reflect that on average, women of color often make the least amount of money in our economy. Not only do women of color face tougher economic conditions, but women of color disproportionately face risky pregnancies due to inadequate maternal health care.

This is the result of many intersecting institutional and societal factors, and we know that removing access to healthcare for people who need it the most will further hurt their economic opportunities and continue to widen the wage gap. This will cost women hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages over the course of their careers.  According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), eliminating state-level abortion bans would allow an additional 505,000 women to enter the labor force, and earn about $3 billion annually.

Free and unfettered access to birth control, safe abortions, and all reproductive healthcare is essential for the health and economic wellbeing of all people, especially people of color. The Supreme Court’s decision not only eliminates the constitutional protection to obtain an abortion, but it also calls into question other landmark cases which protect the access to contraception and protect the lives of LGBTQ+ people across the country.

This decision threatens the safety and security of our most vulnerable communities, and we must advocate for new federal laws and expanded state laws to protect abortion and reproductive rights for all people who experience pregnancy.  

The Office of Economic Empowerment will continue its mission to close the race and gender wage gap, and promote racial equity, and work to ensure EVERYONE has access to safe and affordable reproductive health care.