Banning access to reproductive health care would intensify poverty for Ohio women

October 25, 2023 4:30 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio — OCTOBER 08: Michelle Black of Columbus (center) listens to Lauren Blauvelt speak during the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom Bans OFF Columbus rally for Issue 1, October 8, 2023, outside the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7, Ohioans will vote on the Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety, a ballot question that would amend the state constitution to ensure an individual’s fundamental right to make decisions about reproductive health care — inclusive of fertility treatment, contraception, miscarriage management, and abortion. The referendum is a direct response to Ohio’s adoption of a near-total abortion ban, which has been blocked by a lower court and is currently under review by the Ohio Supreme Court.

Businesses would be wise to consider the undeniable economic implications to Ohio if the ballot question fails or the higher court reinstates the abortion ban. 

The nation’s economic well-being is integrally tied to the strength of its workforce. Access to reproductive health care, including contraception, increases women’s labor force participation, boosting economic output. In the 1980s and 1990s, contraception served an important role in narrowing the wage gap, which brought the US ranking to 6th out of 22 advanced economies in labor force participation of women of reproductive age. Yet still, the US currently ranks 20th out of 22 advanced economies in female labor force participation. 

Ohio’s female workforce faces tough economic challenges. About one-third of the state’s 2.6 million women in their reproductive years have incomes that are below 200% of the federal poverty level.

Banning access to abortion would expand and intensify poverty for women and their families. According to Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health at the University of California San Francisco, women denied abortions have an almost four times greater odds of a household income below the federal poverty level and three times greater odds of being unemployed, depriving them of income to pay for basic family necessities like food, housing, and transportation.

Women denied abortions are more likely to stay in contact with violent partners. These harms fall disproportionately on women of color. Conversely, in states with strong abortion protections and coverage, women have higher levels of education, lower levels of poverty, and experience a higher ratio of female-to-male earnings. 

Ohio has long struggled with “brain drain,” the net migration of highly educated talent out of state. While net outflow has lessened in recent years, banning access to abortion will make living in Ohio far less appealing to younger female workers.

Eighty-six percent of women state that controlling if and when to have children has been important to their careers, and 83% of women of reproductive age have said they would want their employer’s insurance to cover the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion. In a study reported on by Forbes magazine in August, new research indicates that the companies who announced they would pay for abortion-related travel received an almost 8% increase in interest in job postings. 

This aligns with consistent polling showing that most Americans support varying levels of access to abortion. In fact, only 13% want to see abortion banned entirely, a 7% decline from four years ago. 

One source has estimated that Ohio’s total economic losses due to state-level abortion restrictions were more than $4.5 billion in 2020. 

Investors are paying attention to the negative economic outcomes that abortion bans represent. Institutional investors representing nearly $550 billion in assets under management signed on to a statement calling on corporations to ensure access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, respect and protect the personal health information of patients and individuals, and provide family-friendly benefits.

Companies in Ohio can do that and more, by speaking out in favor of access to comprehensive reproductive health care and giving employees paid time off to vote on Election Day. Comprehensive reproductive and maternal health care is essential for workers and their families, and it should be a foremost priority for businesses. 



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Erika Seth Davies
Erika Seth Davies

Erika Seth Davies is the CEO of Rhia Ventures, which aims to transform the U.S. market for sexual, reproductive, and maternal health into a vibrant and equitable one through its impact investing, ecosystem building, corporate engagement, and narrative change work.