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Subjugating Women Hurts Us All

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent overrule of its 1973 decision that upheld a woman’s right to abortion is not about motherhood or babies: It’s about controlling and subjugating women by denying women control over their reproductive future.

If the issue were truly about children, wouldn’t we have high-quality universal childcare, health care, and paid maternity leave? We don’t.

This fall, vote for candidates who support women’s reproductive rights. N.C. House and Senate Democrats have introduced legislation to codify the state’s current abortion rights, and would also lift abortion restrictions, passed by Republican majorities, such as the 72-hour waiting period, the counseling mandate, and the ultrasound requirement.

Justice Samuel Alito based his opinion on a constitutional interpretation, though women had no separate legal existence apart from a husband during most of American history when a woman could not own property in her own name or control her own earnings.

Women were chattel.

Contraception and the right to a safe and legal abortion affect fertility and employment decisions. Those determine lifetime income streams, mobility, and well-being. Living in a state with oppressive restrictions can thwart women’s ability to move into higher-wage jobs, harm their health, and even send them to jail for stillbirths or miscarriages.

The Roe decision will especially hurt women of color trapped in low-paying jobs, a legacy of race discrimination.

Legalization has improved women’s lives through education, labor force participation, and earnings, according to an amicus brief filed and signed by 150 prominent economists supporting Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision. Some startling statistics include:

• Nearly half of pregnancies are unintended, and nearly half of these end in abortion.

• Contraception can be inaccessible and unaffordable, especially for young people; more than 15 percent of those aged 15 to 34 have no health insurance.

• Legalization affected young women and Black women the most. Allowing young women to obtain an abortion without parental consent cut teen motherhood by 34 percent and teen marriage by 20 percent.

• Maternal mortality also fell by 28 percent to 40 percent among Black women. This effect on Black women “aligns with historical narratives” suggesting that, pre-legalization, white women could access, or travel, to receive secret abortions.

Effects were strongest overall for Black women. Delaying an unplanned pregnancy through abortion, according to one study, showed an hourly wage increase of 11 percent later in life; a 20 percent increase in the likelihood they’ll attend college; and a 40 percent increase in the probability that they’ll enter a professional occupation.

Not only has legalization improved women's outcomes, it has also benefited children. Fewer children are born into single-parent households; fewer are abused or neglected; and more children graduate from high school and college.

The Court's decision hurts everybody. We the people will pick up the tab for this expensive, short-sighted, and shameful abrogation of women's rights. The overrule helps no one but will cost everyone. Especially women, who have lost the right to privacy guaranteed in the 14th Amendment.

BettyJoyce Nash reported for the Greensboro News & Record and the Hendersonville Times-News before moving to Virginia where she worked as an economics writer for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. She co-edited Lock & Load: Armed Fiction, an anthology of literary short stories that probe Americans' complicated relationship to firearms. (University of New Mexico Press, 2017.)

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