Reproductive Freedom Is Tied to Women’s Economic Security
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States. Access to safe and legal reproductive health care and information, including abortion, fosters self-sufficiency, promotes preventive health care, and protects individuals and their families from the spread of sexually transmitted infections. But control over one’s reproductive life is also part and parcel to achieving economic autonomy; without reproductive choice, women cannot attain equal pay or opportunity in the workforce.
It’s now a widely acknowledged fact that the typical woman working full-time brings home a paycheck that is 20 percent smaller than the typical man, and women of color tend to face larger gaps. But believe it or not, that number could be a lot worse. Lack of access to a full range of reproductive health services is one factor that contributes to those alarming statistics. Research suggests that the widespread availability and use of birth control pills in the 1980s and 1990s was partially responsible for narrowing the pay gap to where it is today.
Over a career (47 years), women’s total earnings loss compared with men is $700,000 for a high school graduate, $1.2 million for a college graduate, and $2 million for a professional school graduate. But women and girls who have access to reproductive health services are in a better position to tackle one element that leads to the gender pay gap. Research indicates that expanding access to reproductive services and information increases the prospect of economic security in adulthood for women. On the other hand, women who are denied abortions are more likely to receive public assistance, more likely to have an income below the federal poverty level, and less likely to be working full time.
As costs of both health care and child care skyrocket, it is paramount that women are able to control their own decisions about when, if, and how to start a family. The existing pay gap already hurts women, their families, and the economy. Limiting reproductive choices and access only compounds these issues. On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we celebrate our freedoms and look to a future in which increased access to critical health care leads to greater economic security and parity for women.
AAUW supports choice in the determination of one’s reproductive life and increased access to health care and family planning services.
Back up your advocacy with the latest research by reading about how the gender pay gap affects different people in different ways.
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