The Economics of Abortion

Zachary Colao is a sophomore politics major

On the recent “unity tour” with DNC head Tom Perez and Senator Bernie Sanders, an unorthodox statement was expressed by the latter. In an interview with NPR, Sanders claimed that in order for the left to win back political control of Washington, they must be accepting of a multitude of social sentiments. His statement comes in the wake of his endorsement and zealous campaigning for Heath Mello, a mayoral candidate of Omaha, Neb. Mello has been labeled by Sanders as a true progressive, despite the fact that Mello sponsored a bill that would put an undue burden on women seeking abortions. On this, Sanders claims, “I think you just can’t exclude people who disagree with us on one issue.” The bill Mello sponsored would have made it mandatory for women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion.


Sanders is the defacto leader of the progressive party, so his support for Mello comes as a shock to progressive Americans. It’s not just because of the blowback to the endeavor of reproductive justice. Restricting access to abortions further worsens economic inequalities, an evil Bernie Sanders has made his goal to eliminate. Since the fight against wealth inequity in the United States has remained the philosophical bedrock of Sanders’ left-leaning politics, it’s uncanny that Sanders has taken this stance towards abortions. Has Bernie Sanders forgotten that reproductive rights are also an economic issue?

First and foremost, economics remain a driving force for women seeking abortions. A nonprofit organization that focuses on reproductive justice, The Guttmacher Institute, found that 75 percent of abortion patients in 2014 were low-income. The Guttmacher Institute concluded that the reason they needed abortion services was because of the same types of restrictive laws the Bernie-endorsed mayoral candidate Mello has championed in Nebraska.


Economics also play a part in those who are denied an abortion. A similar study conducted by UCSF found that a staggering 76 percent of those who were denied abortion access were recipients of monetary government assistance. The same University of California study found that women who carried an unwanted pregnancy to term—because of a lack of abortion access, largely due to the politics of her environment—are three time more likely than women who receive an abortion to fall below the poverty line two years later. These studies both conclude that as women are denied access to safe and legal abortions, they are more likely to become unemployed and fall below the poverty line, if they aren’t already. This puts an economic burden on the state, as women who are denied abortion services are then more likely to end up on government assistance programs.

There is no way to untie the tangled intersectionality between economics and reproductive rights. Especially as an economic populist and progressive leader, it’s odd that Bernie Sanders does not understand this obvious relationship between economics and reproductive rights. Nevertheless, the left champions Bernie Sanders as a progressive hero, which seems hypocritical in light of his recent statements. My question remains: has Bernie Sanders forgotten that reproductive rights is an economic issue, or has he softened his stance on pro-choice politics?

Photo: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr


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