This week marks a full year since Politico published a leaked draft of the opinion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that overturned Roe v. Wade. That leak turned out to be an accurate preview of what we all feared was coming: the complete upending of abortion access across the United States.
The Dobbs decision has had devastating impacts, triggering a cascade of abortion bans in the states. A year on from the leak, 14 states are enforcing complete bans on abortion and a 15th (Georgia) has implemented a six-week abortion ban. Still other states have enacted laws banning abortion at various gestational limits, though some of these laws have been blocked by the courts. In short: now, more than ever, women’s access to abortion varies drastically based on where they live, and can change at any time, creating confusion, instability, and wide-ranging consequences throughout American society.
The evidence is pretty overwhelming: abortion bans are bad for everyone. First and foremost, they’re bad for the women who are unable to access health services. The landmark Turnaway study, led by Dr. Diana Greene Foster from the University of California San Francisco, provided a decisive look at how women who are denied abortion care experience significantly worse health outcomes, including mental and physical health, as well as long-lasting economic repercussions. The study, which followed 1,000 women for 5 years, found that women who were unable to obtain a wanted abortion were more likely to be unemployed, had greater odds of living in poverty, and were more likely to require assistance from public safety-net programs. Women denied abortion care were also more likely to stay with an abusive partner. On the other side of the coin, the Turnaway study found that over 95% of women who decided to have an abortion said it was the right decision for them.
In addition to the profound impacts that abortion bans have on women and families, they also reverberate throughout the economy, creating further harm. IWPR’s pre-Dobbs research estimated that state-level abortion restrictions cost state economies $105 billion per year. This figure was mainly based on TRAP laws and other state policies that restricted or limited abortion access, and the number has likely skyrocketed since the removal of federal protections and resultant onslaught of state abortion bans. And business leaders have taken notice: over 800 companies have signed a statement saying that abortion bans are bad for business.
Higher education institutions may suffer too. There’s new evidence that the status of reproductive health access is a factor in many high school students’ decisions about where to attend school. Just next week, IWPR is publishing results of a new study of students and parents of students, highlighting the importance of abortion restrictions in choosing where to go to college, and concerns about the future of reproductive health in the United States.
It’s going to be years before we know the full human, economic, and systemic costs of the Dobbs decision and subsequent restrictions on abortion, but in the coming months we’ll start to put some numbers to the initial economic costs. IWPR will be publishing updates to the costs of reproductive rights restrictions data in June, documenting early indications of how the post-Dobbs fallout has harmed state economies.
A year has passed since we first glimpsed the court’s decision, and far too many women have had to live through the consequences of what that decision ultimately did to our country and women’s freedom. The bottom line remains this: Roe was always the floor, not the ceiling. Too many people who needed abortions couldn’t access care even while its protections were in place, but the impacts of removing that floor have been devastating. We need policymakers who are willing to build on the legacy of Roe – including through the passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act – to create a system where everyone has the right and the ability to make their own decisions about abortion, pregnancy, and childbirth. Women’s health, and so much more, depends on it.
Nina Besser Doorley is the Vice President of Policy and Strategic Initiatives at IWPR.