A new report from the Brookings Institute, an influential Washington think tank, confirms what we all know: there's a direct link between family planning and income. The study found, "low-income women are less likely to use contraception and are less likely to have an abortion once pregnant."
Women living in poverty are also more likely to experience an unintentional pregnancy, but that "equalizing contraceptive use reduces the ratio of unintended births between affluent and poor women by half, and that equalizing abortion rates reduces the ratio by one-third." Brookings also found that "there is no 'sex gap' by income," and that rich and poor women have sex, and premarital sex (!), at equal rates.
So basically, poor women are both less likely to use contraception and less likely to have an abortion. ThinkProgress points out that abortion laws in many states have specifically targeted poor women.
Thanks to the hundreds of state-level abortion restrictions that have been imposed over the past several years, it has become more difficult and more expensive for women to have an abortion. Harsh laws ensure that Americans must navigate logistical hurdles that ultimately drive up the price tag, which presents a particular challenge for impoverished women.
For instance, 11 states have mandatory waiting period laws that require women to make two separate trips to an abortion clinic — which means they must take additional time off work, pay more for transportation, and potentially even stay overnight in a hotel if the clinic is hundreds of miles away from their home. Plus, abortion is routinely excluded from low-income women's insurance plans, leaving them to shoulder the full cost of an unexpected health event on their own.
Problematically, many of these policies do little more than push impoverished families even deeper into poverty. Add the price of neonatal care, plus the financial burden of a child to an already strapped family or single mom and it's a recipe for financial disaster. (Just a quick reminder that the average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is $245,340)
Brookings recommends revisiting abortion and contraception policies to address the economic gap.
"Access to affordable abortion also matters, and this is currently limited for many low-income women," the report concludes. "There are of course strongly-held views on abortion, but it should be hard for anyone to accept such inequalities by income, especially when they are likely to reverberate across two or more generations. Abortion is a difficult choice, but it is not one that should influenced by financial status."
Image via Shutterstock.