Respect Poverty

How child poverty could increase without the protections of Roe v. Wade

“Short term, what you’re going to see is a rise in child poverty. Women use the access to abortion as one of the tools for family planning and for timing birth so that they come at a time when the parent is best able to support a family,” said Elizabeth Ananat, a professor of women and economics at Barnard College.
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Story at a glance


  • Women denied an abortion are four times more likely to live below the federal poverty line. 

  • That could lead to more children living in poverty as mothers could struggle to pay for basic living expenses. 

  • Now that the Supreme Court has overturned the constitutional right to abortion, more women may be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies. 

More women may be forced to carry pregnancies now that the constitutional right to abortion access has been overturned. That could lead to an increase in child poverty across the country as families could struggle to cover basic living expenses. 

Research has indicated that women denied a wanted abortion end up facing serious consequences to their health and wellbeing and are four times more likely to live below the federal poverty level. Mothers denied an abortion reported insufficient money to pay for basic needs like food, housing and transportation. 

Some experts believe more women and children could end up living in poverty after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — a nearly 50-year-old ruling that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion access. 

In an analysis for Teachers College at Columbia University, Elizabeth Ananat, a professor of women and economics, explained, “Short term, what you’re going to see is a rise in child poverty. Women use the access to abortion as one of the tools for family planning and for timing birth so that they come at a time when the parent is best able to support a family.” 

Thousands of women around the country are already facing limitations to how they can plan for their families, with Missouri, Louisiana, South Dakota, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, Arkansas, Texas and five other states enacting laws days after the Supreme Court’s decision that outright ban or restrict abortion


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Data by abortion policy group Guttmacher Institute indicates that a majority of abortion-seekers are already considered low-income, with 49 percent living at less than the federal poverty level and 26 percent living at 100 to 199 percent of the poverty level in 2014.  

With limited or no access to abortion in many parts of the country, the number of Americans and children living in poverty could increase — with May’s child poverty rate at 16 percent, an increase from April’s 14 percent. 

Research has shown that being denied an abortion can have serious economic consequences, like the Turnaway Study, which examined the effects of unwanted pregnancies and found that children born as a result of abortion denial are more likely to live below the federal poverty line. 

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found similar results, that women denied an abortion experienced greater financial distress which resulted in higher rates of poverty, lower employment and greater use of public assistance in both the short-term and long-term.  

Children living in poverty face daily struggles, like hunger, illness, insecurity and instability, but they also are more likely to experience low academic achievement, obesity and behavioral problems, according to Lauren Caldwell, who directs the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Children, Youth and Families office. 

In an analysis for APA, Caldwell explained that persistent childhood poverty can continue throughout a child’s lifespan and is linked to academic failure and reduced rates of college attendance and graduation.