Reproductive Freedom Is Tied to Women’s Economic Security

AAUW rallies during Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt oral arguments in March 2016.

January 18, 2018

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.

An image showing the pay ratios for different racial groups compared to white menOver 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.

Want to help secure reproductive rights and equal pay for all? Tell Congress to act now!

Take Action

birth control pills

AAUW Issues: Reproductive Rights

AAUW supports choice in the determination of one’s reproductive life and increased access to health care and family planning services.

Discover The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap

Back up your advocacy with the latest research by reading about how the gender pay gap affects different people in different ways.

AAUW staff hold burlap sacks representing the increased salary that can be earned after attending an AAUW salary negotiation workshop.

Find a Salary Negotiation Workshop Near You

Sign up for an AAUW Start Smart or AAUW Work Smart workshop and start securing the salary and benefits you deserve.

By:   |   January 18, 2018


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  25. Michele Guttenberger says:

    When abortion and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) is the priority platform in Women’s Healthcare, it is time to realize that reproductive freedom has become a counter movement to the holistic well being of womankind. It is the worst negative episodes in a woman’s life that has become the pinnacle reason to hold a health rally on behalf of our gender. Decades later we still hold the same banners as if social norms haven’t changed and physicians won’t prescribe contraception to a single woman who seeks it. But, we did achieve sexual freedom for today’s society. It is this achievement that created the growing need for a new generation to enter the doors of STD’s treatment centers and abortion clinics. And we can proudly say we made these services legally possible and even added some government funding to them. Not addressed is the Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD’s) these incidents cause in many women that often leads to long term depression, alcohol and drug abuse. Women with emotional problems lack economic security. The anger that is fostered at these women’s marches just may be displaced aggression from past traumas they secretly held on to for so many years.

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