Women Denied Abortions Are More Likely to End Up on Welfare, Study Finds

In the United States, women are, in theory, legally equal to men. It was a long road traveled by many waves of feminists, but women steadily gained legal recognition as people having the right to vote and to receive equal education and employment opportunities. Now, one of the most contentious issues on the women’s rights scene is, you got it, abortion.

A new study shows that women who are denied abortions are more likely to be unemployed, on welfare, and in abusive relationships than their counterparts who did receive the abortions they petitioned for. The preliminary results of the “Turnaway Study” throw light on the importance of pro-choice legislation in continuing to promote women’s equality in the United States.

The researchers of the “Turnaway Study” have conducted over 2,800 interviews with women who sought abortions between 2008 and 2010. Some received the desired procedure with more or less difficulty, and some were turned away because they had been pregnant for longer than the abortion clinics’ limits for the procedure. The most common reason for seeking an abortion was economic: women felt that they simply did not have enough money to support a child. 76% of the women who had to carry an unwanted baby to term were on welfare two years later, as opposed to only 44% of women who had abortions. Furthermore, 7% of the women turned away from clinics were in abusive relationships at the times of their interviews, as opposed to only 3% of their counterparts. The interviews indicated that this was a result of women without children having more freedom to leave abusive partners.

Freedom is the key word here. It’s the principle, the fundamental human right, on which the United States is supposed to operate. 

While the women in this particular study were not allowed to have abortions because they were outside of the time limit for the procedure, pro-life advocates would deny any woman from having an abortion. The result of this approach if we follow the trends laid out by the “Turnaway Study” would be a female population with decreased socioeconomic freedom. Laws requiring employers to provide equal employment opportunities to woman are useless if the women cannot apply for jobs because they must care for children borne of unwanted pregnancies. 

Furthermore, pro-life policies would force more women onto welfare, a favorite target of disdain by the same group of politicians who support the banning of abortion.  These policymakers criticize those Americans who are dependent on welfare while supporting policies that reduce women’s ability to choose a better economic option, that is, to abort an unwanted pregnancy.

The final, and perhaps most concerning, piece of this puzzle are the statistics on relationship abuse revealed by the “Turnaway Study.” Domestic violence is one of the least reported crimes in the country, with only 33% of those involved in abusive relationships ever telling anyone. Since women carrying unwanted babies to term also carried increased economic burdens, it’s not surprising that they would choose the relative economic security of a relationship, even an abusive relationship, in order to support their children. If denying a woman an abortion forces her into the prison of domestic violence, then we should count this as just another reason to defend Roe v. Wade with tooth and nail. 

After all, pro-choice legislation is not pro-abortion legislation: It is pro-freedom legislation. It supports a woman’s, a person’s, right to choose the path of her life, to pursue opportunities on an equal basis with any other person. So if she chooses not to have a child because she is financially unable to support that baby, then she should be allowed to make that call. She should not have her freedom stripped from her and be condemned to a life of poverty and violence.

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Devon Reynolds

I am an undergraduate at Brown University studying Africana Studies and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies.

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