After Roe, Families Need Universal Basic Income

WWhen I was in my third-year of college, an abortion occurred. I was in a long-term relationship with the man that would become my husband. Birth control was a failure during one of the most significant times in my adult life.

In 1999, I went through my first abortion. My job was 30 hours per week at the time. I took full classes and used Pell Grants to make up the difference. An abortion cost more than $500. Even though my partner helped cover the costs, it was still a major shock for my ability to meet my normal monthly living expenses. But, it was a blessing. The fall disbursement of my student loans coincided with the discovery that I was pregnant. I was able to afford an abortion and have full control over my body and personal life because of the cash.

While it’s been more than two decades, I’ve been thinking about this situation often with the end of Roe v. Wade. As the head of an organization fighting for basic income, I know first-hand how crucial extra cash will be to women in need of abortion and the extra costs they’ll have to incur to receive one if they live in one of the majority of states poised to outlaw abortion. A guaranteed income is not an alternative to abortion access, but it will certainly help women overcome the tremendous barriers they’ll face with the end of legal abortion rights.

It was just like me. Millions of women find that the price of abortion is too high or a major financial blow to their finances. We need a federally-funded guaranteed income program, similar to the unrestricted cash distributed through last year’s expanded Child Tax Credit, to help women in states outlawing abortion offset the added financial burden they now face.

The primary factor that determines whether a woman has access to an abortion is her financial resources. This second-only to abortion laws. As a recent Brookings report determined: “Economists provide clear evidence that overturning Roe would prevent large numbers of women experiencing unintended pregnancies—many of whom are low-income and financially vulnerable mothers—from obtaining desired abortions.”

The basic income pays a monthly amount to the recipient without any restrictions as to how they can spend it. It is similar to other income sources, and it supports people in their daily lives. At its heart, basic income is about changing our country’s punitive, unjust systems toward ones rooted in dignity, trust and freedom. The basic income gives individuals agency in the same way as it allows for abortion.

There are currently more than 80 pilots offering guaranteed basic income across the nation. The average monthly cost of an abortion pill and first-trimester abortion, or the most common, is $500. Most pilots will offer at least $500 per month. Women living in countries that have banned abortion can receive a guaranteed income to help them. This is due to the high cost of obtaining an abortion where legal. Texas recently implemented a quasi-total abortion ban. This meant that most of the women looking for abortions went to Texas or used an abortion pill.

Women who are insured can have financial security and a guarantee income to help them afford birth control.

When we discuss abortion access, it is crucial that we acknowledge that this issue is one of equity. Black women are at greater risk of dying from childbirth than white counterparts. Women of color will be more dependent on Medicaid because they have less income and a wider racial gap. Medicaid doesn’t cover abortion.

Abortion access is inextricably linked to economic security, and—as is the case with all punitive social policies—those who are already marginalized will pay the highest cost. States where women face most restrictions include those where they are least likely to have low incomes, are uninsured or are at highest risk of dying from maternal causes. Mississippi is the state that was involved in the Roe v. Wade overturning case. Mississippi just declined to extend Medicaid support for low-income postpartum mothers.

There is a direct link to women’s ability to access an abortion and their economic prospects, with research finding women who wanted an abortion but were unable to—and their subsequent children—are four times more likely to live under the poverty line.

A proven solution to poverty and freedom is guaranteed income. The Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration’s first year results showed recipients with increased agency and self-determination. This could put at grave risk the protection of reproductive rights.

After graduating from college, I married my high school sweetheart and we had our child. When I see my teenager, I feel grateful that I was able to access unrestricted money so I could decide when I wanted to be a mom.

A guaranteed income is not a replacement for what all women deserve—the protections offered by Roe v. Wade to make their own choices about their bodies. However, given that the Constitution does not allow for abortions now, guaranteed income may be an option in an ongoing struggle to help and protect women.

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