State Abortion Laws Affect Women’s Job Decisions According To New Report

Supermajority Education Fund

January 30, 2020

A report released last week by Rhia Ventures, a women-led social investment company, studied the role this access plays in women’s decisions to move for their careers, as well as human resources and benefits managers’ knowledge of the family planning options companies offer women who need abortion care. The report used existing research as well as interviews with more than 50 experts on human resources, reproductive health, and insurance, and interviews with human resource leaders and benefits managers at 39 companies,

According to research from 2017 PricewaterhouseCoopers cited in the report, 61 percent of women said they would be discouraged from taking a job in a state that tried to restrict abortion access, and 56 percent of women said they wouldn’t apply to a job in a state that had recently banned abortion. 

In 2019, states enacted 58 abortion restrictions, and 25 of them were abortion bans, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In June, six states had only one abortion clinic left, according to the Guttmacher Institute. 

Of the human resource leaders interviewed, only 37 percent knew if their health plans covered abortion. At least 16 of the 39 companies interviewed did not consider how abortion restrictions and bans across the country would affect prospective and current female employees, and many of these companies said Rhia Ventures’ inquiry about abortion care was the first time they considered abortion coverage in health plans. 

Previous research has found that occupational mobility for women and abortion access are linked. A 2018 Washington Center for Economic Growth paper found that Targeted Restrictions of Abortion Providers, or TRAP laws, reduce the likelihood of women being able to move from one occupation to another by 5.8 percent and reduced transitions to higher paid jobs by 7.6 percent. It also found state Medicaid funding for abortion increased the likelihood of women changing occupations by 6.5 percent.

Kate Bahn, director of labor market policy and economist for the Washington Center for Economic Growth, told Supermajority News that both workers and employers benefit from more dynamic labor markets, in which workers can more easily switch jobs and avoid long stretches of unemployment.

“It’s not only good for [workers] because they’re probably going into higher paid jobs, but it’s also good for companies if they have a better match because it also means those workers are going to be more productive within the company,” Bahn said. “Our overall research shows that when you have a worse environment toward reproductive care, the labor market is less dynamic, and that is going to affect both workers and businesses and the overall economy.”

Bahn added that policymakers shouldn’t rely on an employer model for better access to reproductive care because that “sort of exacerbates inequality because it’s only higher-income professional workers who get access to [reproductive health] and paid leave … It really has to be a universal policy, especially if we want to see these economy-wide effects, these economy-wide effects. Everyone has to have it.”