Denying Women Abortion Access Increases Their Risk Of Falling Into Poverty

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco launched a Global Turnaway Study this year to explore the potential social and economic implications of denying women access to legal abortion. And after documenting the experiences of the women who seek to terminate a pregnancy but are turned away from abortion services, the UCSF researchers found that those women were three times more likely than the women who successfully obtained abortions to fall below the poverty line within the subsequent two years.

The Gawker affiliate io9 summarizes some of the researchers’ preliminary findings, and notes that denying women access to abortion puts a strain on struggling women as well as federal assistance programs. Although the women who participated in the Turnaway Study were in comparable economic positions when they sought abortions, the woman who were unable to terminate their unwanted pregnancies were more likely to have slipped into poverty just a year later:

A year later, [the women who were denied an abortion] were far more likely to be on public assistance — 76 percent of the turnaways were on the dole, as opposed to 44 percent of those who got abortions. 67 percent of the turnaways were below the poverty line (vs. 56 percent of the women who got abortions), and only 48 percent had a full time job (vs. 58 percent of the women who got abortions).

When a woman is denied the abortion she wants, she is statistically more likely to wind up unemployed, on public assistance, and below the poverty line. Another conclusion we could draw is that denying women abortions places more burden on the state because of these new mothers’ increased reliance on public assistance programs.

The UCSF researchers also told io9 that their study did not find any statistical correlation between abortion and drug use, or abortion and clinical depression — in other words, women who successfully obtained abortions did not experience any negative emotional consequences stemming from their decision to end a pregnancy, including an uptick in drug abuse. In fact, the researchers explained, “One week after seeking abortion, 97 percent of women who obtained an abortion felt that abortion was the right decision; 65 percent of turnaways still wished they had been able to obtain an abortion.”


In fact, women often seek abortions for the very same reasons they seek access to affordable contraception: because they cannot currently afford to have another child. Women typically want to avoid unintended pregnancies in cases when having a baby would compromise their economic autonomy and prevent them from finishing school, keeping a job, or supporting their current families.

Nonetheless, conservative anti-choice advocates are currently pushing to limit access to both abortion and contraception — while simultaneously slashing funding for the social safety net programs that poor women rely on.