It’s impossible to talk about women’s financial autonomy and upward mobility without talking about reproductive rights.
Research trends have established a link between legal access to birth control and young women achieving employment, increased earning power, graduate school education, and longer-lasting marriages. Further studies determined that delaying having kids and spacing out births help women achieve their career and educational goals.
Clearly a woman’s ability to control when and if she has children greatly impacts her financial autonomy. And the right to an abortion is paramount to that freedom. The issue is far reaching: almost one in three American women will have an abortion by age 45, according to Guttmacher, a policy analysis and public education institute. Of those, 61 percent have one or more children at the time of their procedure. Sixty-nine percent are economically disadvantaged and 73 percent identify as religiously affiliated.
And yet, our nation is currently seeing a dramatic rollback of abortion rights. While the right to an abortion is constitutionally protected, states have passed more abortion restrictions in the past three years than in the previous decade.
Here are the four most restrictive abortion laws passed and put on the books in 2014.
1. In Mississippi, you cannot get an abortion — even if you’re raped — beyond 20 weeks.
In July 2014, Mississippi enacted a law banning abortion after 20 weeks. While there are exceptions if the woman’s life is in danger or if she faces “permanent injury,” the law does not make allowances for women who become pregnant as the result of sexual assault. One out of every six American women has survived an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and RAINN estimates that there were 17,342 pregnancies as a result of rape in 2012. Limited exceptions for fatal abnormalities in the fetus are included as well.
Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas also have a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.
The bigger picture: 42 states now block abortion at a specified point in pregnancy, generally with the exception of the woman’s life being in danger.
2. Indiana and Georgia have banned abortion from being covered by insurance, directly impacting poor women.
Indiana became the 10th state to prevent private insurance companies from covering abortion, with exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the life of the woman or “major bodily function.” However, there is no exemption for fetal anomalies or mental health issues.
Georgia, the 25th state to ban abortion coverage by the Affordable Care Act, now also bans private insurance coverage. Georgia’s ban has no exceptions for rape or incest and a reportedly slim health exception that covers “medical emergencies.”
A 2012 article in Women’s Health Journal, written by three doctors, determined that most American abortion patients are low-income women who must pay “several hundred” dollars for abortion services. Poor women procured these funds by delaying the payment of rent, food, utilities, or other bills. Half of these women could not afford to pay for their abortions themselves.
Laws like those in Georgia and Indiana directly discriminate against low-income women.
The bigger picture: Nine states currently block private insurance coverage of abortion, with the exception of the woman’s life being in danger. Many states permit the purchase of additional abortion coverage.
3. Oklahoma has nearly banned women’s access to nonsurgical abortion.
As of 2011, Oklahoma had only three abortion clinics servicing the entire state of 742,005 women of reproductive age. Abortion-inducing drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, which can be consumed in the very early stages of pregnancy, allow women to safely terminate pregnancies at home after being examined by a doctor.
But on November 1, Oklahoma banned mifepristone and misoprostol unless they are prescribed according to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) protocol.
The FDA protocol, which has not been updated since 2000, requires these drugs be consumed three days apart and in the presence of a physician. This means that women have to make multiple visits to the same clinic, which can necessitate travel, accommodations, and child care.
The FDA also requires a higher medical dosage of abortion-inducing drugs than has been deemed necessary by contemporary doctors.
The bigger picture: 10 states currently have laws that effectively require women to make two separate trips to obtain an abortion.
4. Missouri passed a 72-hour waiting period to get an abortion, expanded from an original 24-hour waiting period.
About half of states currently have a 24-hour waiting period to receive an abortion. But Missouri’s waiting period is considered the “most stringent” (along with South Dakota’s, which is also 72 hours).
This waiting period, which presents even more financial challenges for poor and low-income women who often have to secure significant child care and travel expenses, also risks running even longer due to weekends and holidays (which are not counted within the mandated 72 hours). In 2011, 97 percent of Missouri counties had no abortion clinics — and 74 percent of Missouri women lived within these counties, underscoring that travel is indeed a necessity for most women seeking this constitutionally protected right.
There are no exceptions to the 72-hour waiting period for victims of rape or incest.
The bigger picture: 26 states require a woman seeking an abortion to wait (usually 24 hours) before her procedure.