How the right to abortion has changed the lives of women in the United States

How the right to abortion has changed the lives of women in the United States

On Friday, June 24, the United States Supreme Court eliminated the right to abortion at the federal level, restoring the power to regulate the procedure to individual states, more than half of which have already expressed their willingness to ban it. The decision overturns the historic Roe v. Wade of 1973, which guaranteed the right to abortion throughout the country.

The decision - which in thirteen states will trigger laws that will make termination of pregnancy illegal, the so-called trigger laws - was expected since since May, when a draft was leaked that anticipated the court's opinion, and promises to erase fifty years of profound changes in women's lives and the well-being of families in the United States.

From the start In the 1970s, the marriage rate of US women halved, while the number of female college graduates quadrupled. The number of women who</a> do not give birth has more than doubled while women who give up their jobs because they are raising children has halved compared to fifty years ago.

In other words, over the past fifty years By accessing safe and legal practices to terminate pregnancy, women in the United States have been able to make choices that have transformed their lives. Now, with Roe v. Wade, some of those choices and possibilities may no longer be available.

"The ability to determine when to have children is a pillar of the modern family," says Philip N. Cohen, University sociology professor of Maryland, which in May had stressed in The New Republic that the right to abortion is a fundamental component of democracy.

The situation before Roe v. Wade American tech companies want to help their employees abort The big names in Silicon Valley react to the decision of the US Supreme Court, facilitating travel and transfers for women who request it. Before Roe v. Wade, the regulation of abortion was the prerogative of individual states, exactly as it will happen in the future. In the late 1960s, eleven states relaxed the total ban on abortion to allow for occasional exceptions, following examination by some sort of medical committee, in cases of rape and incest, or to preserve women's lives. Then, in 1970, the capital Washington and five states - Alaska, California, Hawaii, New York and Washington - legalized abortion for both their own residents and for all women rich enough to reach the states.

What Happened in These States in the Three Years Prior to Roe v. Wade can be seen as a natural experiment on the effects of legal access to safe abortion. For geographic reasons Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state were hard to reach areas for most women; for this reason, it was mainly the residents of these states who benefited from legalization. California, New York and Washington DC, on the other hand, were already very well connected population centers. While national data from the time is incomplete, those at the state level show that abortions increased after legalization at the local level and decreased with the advent of Roe v. Wade. The obvious conclusion is that women initially moved to states where abortions were guaranteed to gain access to the procedure, a necessity eliminated by the 1973 ruling.

In 1970, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York and California accounted for 80.7 percent of all legal abortions reported in the United States. In 1973, however - after the January sentence - the percentage dropped to 54.5 percent. In an analysis of New York state data published in 2013 in the Journal of Health Economics, some economists estimated that New York accounted for 84 percent of all abortions performed outside a woman's home state. However, the researchers also found that the likelihood that women could have access to legal abortions before Roe v. Wade was closely linked to their distance from New York (or another state where anti-abortion laws had been repealed or reformed). For every 100 miles (about 160 kilometers) away from the New York state lines, the chance of having an abortion decreased by 12 percent.

These data demonstrate what could happen now that Roe v. Wade was canceled and the abortion is once again under the control of individual states. "It will not be a return to the sixties - explains Caitlin Knowles Myers, economist and professor at Middlebury College, whose work focuses on data relating to reproductive policies -. It will be a return to that restricted period that goes from 1970 to 1972. what we are talking about: a return to inequality of access for women in half the country ".

The effects of the Myers ruling estimates that every year around 100,000 women living in states that intend to institute new bans or restrictions they will not be able to reach an abortion facility. About 75 thousand of them, according to the teacher's estimates, will carry the pregnancy to term (the rest of the women will have a spontaneous abortion, or could undergo a pharmacological abortion). "This group of women is the poorest in a group that is already very poor and vulnerable - underlines Myers -. Many of them are already mothers. They have difficult living conditions. They are so poor and have such serious economic difficulties that they cannot succeed. to find a way to travel to have an abortion. Many of them will then give birth. "

WiredLeaks, how to send us an anonymous report There is a lot of data, collected immediately before and after Roe v. Wade and decades after, which illustrate what is likely to happen in the future in the United States. Before the sentence, more women died from bleeding or infections caused by unsafe abortions, others from the inherent risks of pregnancy (according to research conducted last year, mortality during pregnancy among black women fell by 40 per cent after legalization). Research published by the Guttmacher Institute nearly 20 years ago found that the main impact of Roe v. Wade was recorded in the field of public health, not demographics: in other words, there was a moderate drop in the birth rate, but a staggering decrease in disease and deaths.

About the drop in births, some economists have found that if you isolate the availability of legal abortion from other events, such as the availability of oral contraceptives, the ruling is responsible for an 11 percent drop in the birth rate in the United States. It might seem like a small number, but it's huge when put into context: Myers discovered that after Roe v. Wade's number of teenage mothers in the United States dropped 34 percent. The number of teenage marriages - the so-called "repair marriages", a phenomenon that was largely eliminated from US culture in the following decades - dropped by 20 percent.

The economic impact But it is what happens after birth, especially to young and black women, best illustrates the impact of Roe v. Wade. The ability to choose whether and when to have children or get married has made a profound difference to the economic future of women. Numerous studies show that women who were able to plan their pregnancies were more likely to finish high school and go to college, to earn higher salaries and to find work. While other changes in the 1970s also improved women's economic and employment prospects, such as a focus on diversity in education and the rise of tech jobs, economists are confident that Roe v. Wade played an important role.

This explains their concern at the possibility of the sentence being overturned. Last September, 154 economists and researchers submitted a lengthy opinion to the Supreme Court with the aim of illustrating evidence of the importance of access to legal abortion for women's economic health.

Jason Lindo, professor of economics at Texas A&M University - and one of the signatories of the opinion, along with Myers - points out that it is not only women who will suffer the economic consequences: "The vast majority of people who ask for the 'abortion already has at least one child, and many will have children later in their lives - explains Lindo -. Due to the impossibility of aborting, these children will grow up in more disadvantaged families. And there is a large literature that shows that growing up in a more disadvantaged family leads to worse economic outcomes, worse school results, higher incarceration rates, greater use of social support programs ".

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Arrow It's not just guesswork. An innovative research project known as the Turnaway Study, which began in 2008, has followed 1,000 women for five years. All the participants had tried to access the termination of pregnancy; in some cases they had received the abortion, while in others they had been rejected for exceeding the time limit set by their state and had therefore given birth. Compared to women who had an abortion, those who failed to access a termination were four times more likely to have a family income below the federal poverty line, three times more likely to be unemployed, more likely to file bankruptcy or eviction, and more likely to have a lower credit profile, higher debts and unable to afford basic necessities such as transportation and food.

Women who could not stop their pregnancy also made them more likely to have an unstable or abusive partner and to be single mothers. Their children, both those born from the unwanted pregnancy and those born before or after, were three times more likely to live below the federal poverty line.

The consequences on health The potential harms go beyond childbirth and raising children. The system of clinics that developed in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade, made up of both self-employed clinics and subsidiaries of national organizations such as Planned Parenthood, does more than just guarantee termination of pregnancy. In many locations, these clinics also ensure that women receive low-cost health care: family planning counseling, breast and cervical cancer screening, and exams. With tightening restrictions and cutting funding for family planning services, these clinics are closing. In 2016, some economists found that by adding 100 miles to the commute to the nearest clinic, women are 14 percent less likely to get a pap smear and 18 percent less likely to get a mammogram. br>
"Many abortion facilities offer a full range of services," said Karen Benjamin Guzzo, sociologist and director of the Center for Family and Demographic Research at Bowling Green State University. able to get the reproductive assistance they need ".

This article originally appeared on US.

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