Republicans are not only trying to shrug off that voters are upset about the end of federal abortion rights, they keep claiming that voters care more about one issue in particular: the economy. Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker (R) said in July that “people are concerned about gas, they’re concerned about food. They’re not even talking about [Georgia’s six-week abortion ban].” Earlier this week New Hampshire Senate nominee Don Bolduc (R) said, “Get over it. This [election] is about the economy, fiscal responsibility, and the safety and security of this nation.”
This attempt at deflection is a terrible strategy, because abortion bans are really bad for the economy—they cost state and local economies over $100 billion annually by reducing labor force participation, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. And forced births disrupt people’s individual economic trajectories in a “gigantic way,” as Stanford University economist Mark Duggan told ABC.
That’s why it was refreshing to see Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial nominee, correctly link abortion rights to the economy in an interview with the New Castle News. Term-limited current Governor Tom Wolf (D) has vetoed several abortion restrictions passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature, and Shapiro is sounding the alarm that electing his opponent, Christian Nationalist (and alleged insurrectionist) Doug Mastriano, would spell the end of abortion rights in the state.
“I think what’s clear is my opponent is going to inject chaos into the economy if he’s given the opportunity to lead,” Shapiro said. “The other guy [Mastriano] has no plans for economic development or growth and his top priority—his words, not mine—is to do something that would take away a woman’s right to choose, bring the government into the medical office between a woman and her doctor and, as a result, force companies, drive companies out of Pennsylvania, making it harder to get a job here.”
Shapiro is talking about the number of jobs available in the state, and it’s not a hypothetical problem. Perhaps the highest-profile example is that of Pittsburgh-based language app Duolingo. On the day the court overturned Roe, its CEO said that, if Pennsylvania banned abortion, the company would move its operations. It’s not only a matter of fewer jobs, but the remaining employers having more power over workers to set wages. As Alex Press described the dynamic in Jacobin:
Now, if your job options are narrowed because you want to live in a state where abortion is legal, or because you only want to work at a company that covers the cost of travel for abortion, you will be under greater pressure to take what you can get, even if that means worse wages, worse working conditions, a worse schedule, and so on. And as union members know, when your coworkers are willing to accept lower standards, yours will decline too.
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There’s also the issue of prospective college students choose to go to school elsewhere, current students possibly transferring, or new graduates choosing to leave the state—all of which affects local economies. Plus, an abortion ban could make doctors afraid to practice in the Pennsylvania. It’s a giant mess that could lead to people with means leaving the state and shrinking its tax revenue.
But there’s a larger truth in Shapiro’s statement that abortion bans are bad for the economy, and it’s one many Republicans are trying to obfuscate. Banning abortion doesn’t just affect the larger economy, it affects individual people’s bank accounts as they either attempt to gather the money to travel out of state for an abortion or prepare to carry, birth, and feed a baby they didn’t plan for.
As I wrote after Walker’s absurd comment that people aren’t “concerned” about losing the ability to control if, when, and how they have children:
Republicans like Walker who want to hammer Biden on inflation but wave away conversations about abortion bans as if they’re not also kitchen table issues are missing the forest for the trees. When it comes to people’s spending power, abortion bans will make the experience of inflation even worse. If someone’s monthly gas, groceries, and rent have increased, that makes them even less able to afford caring for a baby.
Republican abortion bans make inflation worse. Abortion is, unequivocally, an economic issue. Democrats: Feel free to steal this messaging.
At least Shapiro got the memo.