Women literally pay the price of being denied an abortion

Torsten Bell
Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Abortion policy is controversial in many countries, although thankfully less so in the UK. Alongside big moral arguments on both sides, most research focuses on health outcomes for mothers and children.

However, a recent paper takes a different perspective, examining instead the financial impact of women seeking abortions but being denied them. Looking at those seeking abortions in the US close to a gestation limit after which abortions are not allowed, the study considered years of detailed credit reports of two groups of women – one that had abortions because they were under the gestation limit and the other made up of women who were denied one because they were just over it.

The effects were huge. Those denied an abortion were 81% more likely to face bankruptcies or evictions than before being denied an abortion, and 78% more likely to be in arrears on debt. Giving birth is of itself a cause of financial distress but the research shows it is greater for women denied an abortion, possibly highlighting the economic impact on women of being able to control the timing of when they give birth.

The backdrop is that, in the US, twice as many abortion restrictions were enacted between 2011 and 2017 as the entire preceding decade. It was sobering reading last week to see Donald Trump become the first US president to attend the March for Life, the country’s annual anti-abortion march.