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  • February 27, 2023

Abortion denials and financial distress

What are the economic consequences of being denied an abortion?

Source: Nicoleta Ionescu

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, many US states moved to further restrict abortions. And while this issue has been extensively debated for years, the economic consequences for women denied an abortion are still largely unknown.

However, in a paper in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, authors Sarah Miller, Laura R. Wherry, and Diana Greene Foster provide evidence of the effects of being denied an abortion on a woman’s financial well-being by analyzing US credit report data.

Using an event study, the authors compared financial outcomes for women who sought abortions just above and just below the gestation limit.

Figure 2 from the authors’ paper illustrates what happened to key financial indicators of both groups of women from 2006 to 2016.



Figure 2 from Miller et al. (2023)


The y-axes show measures of financial distress, credit access, and borrowing levels in panels A, B, and C, respectively. The green lines with circles represent the average index values for the “Turnaway” group, women who were past the gestation limit by up to three weeks and were refused an abortion. The blue lines with triangles represent the average index values for the “Near Limit” group, women who were just within the gestation limit and received a wanted abortion. The x-axes indicate the number of years since a birth for those in the Turnaway group and the counterfactual birth for those in the Near Limit group.

Before the event, women in both groups had similar levels of financial distress, while outcomes diverged afterward, with an increase in financial problems among women in the Turnaway group. Access to credit initially worsened for the Turnaway group as well, but converged back to their peers after three years. Borrowing outcomes were similar for the two groups during both pre- and post-event periods. 

Overall, the researchers found that abortion denial resulted in past-due debts nearly doubling in size, and a substantial increase in negative “public records” on credit reports, such as bankruptcies, evictions, and tax liens.

The Economic Consequences of Being Denied an Abortion appears in the February 2023 issue of the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.