Overturning Roe V. Wade: Here’s How Abortion Bans Will Hurt State Economies And The GDP


The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade Friday, a monumental ruling for reproductive rights that’s also expected to broadly impact the economy, as a study from the International Women’s Policy Center found state economies already lose billions due to abortion restrictions—an issue that’s likely to now grow “exponentially.”

Thousands of abortion-rights activists gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24 in … [+] Washington, DC.

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Key Facts

Numerous studies have found abortion restrictions and being denied an abortion have negative economic impacts—including by reducing participation in the labor force, decreasing earnings and increasing rates of poverty and debt—and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned in May overturning Roe “would set women back decades” economically.

Those effects are felt at the broader societal level: Abortion restrictions cost state economies an estimated $105 billion per year and getting rid of all state-level restrictions would increase the national GDP by nearly 0.5%, the IWPR study found based on data from 2020, when there were fewer restrictions in place than now.

That’s largely based on factors like reductions in labor force participation and earnings levels—if people don’t work or have lower levels of education because they’re caring for children—as well as increasing companies’ turnover and causing people to take more time off work.

Texas, for instance, suffered $14.6 billion in economic losses even before it enacted a six-week abortion ban, IWPR found, while Missouri’s GDP would raise by 1.02% if it weren’t for abortion restrictions.

While concrete numbers are not yet available, “the economic impact will be exponentially higher” now that Roe is overturned, IWPR President and CEO C. Nicole Mason predicted to Forbes ahead of the ruling.

Mason pointed to factors like more people now having to take time off work to travel to other states for abortions, which will increase the economic impact on workplaces, along with more generally taking away people’s “economic choices” when it comes to taking away abortion access and forcing more people to carry pregnancies to term.

Crucial Quote

“When you think about women having access to reproductive healthcare services, including abortion, you have to understand that it is good for women workers … and good for the economy overall,” Mason told Forbes. “The numbers don’t lie.”

Big Number

$1,610. That’s how much higher the salaries of individual women ages 15 to 44 would be if all abortion restrictions were eliminated, the IWPR study found based on 2020 data. The study projects that in the absence of all state-level abortion restrictions, 505,000 more women would enter the labor force—earning approximately $3 billion per year—and women ages 15-44 who are already employed would collectively earn $101.8 billion more annually.

Surprising Fact

The IWPR study found states’ economic losses extend even to ones that broadly protect abortion access: California and New York faced $5.1 and $4.2 billion in annual losses, for instance, though neither would see significant increases in their GDP or labor force participation if restrictions were eliminated.


Anti-abortion advocates have opposed economic arguments that favor broad access to abortion. Abortion opponents believe any economic downsides pale in comparison to the moral benefits of outlawing abortion and protecting fetuses, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said Yellen was “callous” for arguing banning abortion would hurt the economy. “We don’t kill human beings to solve problems,” Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life told Forbes in an interview. “I don’t think the message we should be sending to women is, ‘If you want to succeed … then you have to kill your children.’” Tobias and other anti-abortion activists have also countered the suggestion that abortion bans could hurt the economy by arguing it will increase efforts to strengthen the social safety net—like increased childcare or public assistance to mothers—and will spur more economic growth as more services and goods are needed to accommodate a higher birth rate.

News Peg

The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday as part of a case concerning Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban and whether states can restrict the procedure even before a fetus is viable. Justice Samuel Alito delivered the court’s opinion, which said Roe was “egregiously wrong” and argued the case should be overturned because the right to an abortion is not expressly stated in the Constitution or “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” Four justices—Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett—signed on to Alito’s opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts issued a separate concurrence agreeing with the judgment and the court’s three liberal justices dissented. The decision came after Politico leaked a draft opinion from February suggesting the court would take such a step and overturn Roe entirely, prompting a wave of outcry from the abortion rights advocates and increased efforts from states to both restrict and shore up abortion access.

Key Background

The economic impacts of overturning Roe have become a growing source of criticism as the Supreme Court considered the Mississippi case, though economic research showing the benefits of allowing abortion date back decades. A 2000 study found that Black women’s participation in the labor force increased by 6.9 percentage points after Roe was first decided in 1973, for instance, and the Turnaway Study, a decade-long study that tracked women who had been denied an abortion, found they were more likely to experience household poverty, be unable to cover basic living expenses, have a lower credit score, have more debt and experience issues like bankruptcy and eviction. Yellen warned during a congressional hearing in May that Roe being overturned “would have very damaging effects on the economy” after 154 economists and researchers filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging justices not to overturn Roe. The experts wrote the 1973 precedent is “causally connected to women’s advancements in social and economic life,” and overturning it “would have a significant and negative impact on women’s lives.”

Further Reading

Overturning Roe V. Wade: Here’s How It’ll Impact Reproductive Healthcare — Beyond Abortion (Forbes)

Overturning Roe V. Wade: Here’s How It Could Impact Fertility Treatments And IVF (Forbes)

The Costs of Reproductive Health Restrictions (IWPR)

Read More

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