Positive impact of liberal abortion access

It has become increasingly necessary to explore the topic of abortion. As a matter of human rights, it is absolutely imperative that we discuss the economic benefits liberal abortion access may allow according to statistical results from countries that permitted abortion access, mainly based on a fact sheet composed by Dr Kelly Jones, Ph.D and Anna Bernstein, M.P.H., with a comparative look at the Namibian economy as well as a look at the general costs incurred in Post Abortion Care after unsafe abortion, according to a study on some Sub-Saharan African countries.

Unsafe Abortions:

In addition to health system costs, the full direct cost of treatment includes out-of-pocket expenses paid by the patient (or her household) such as transportation and, depending on the health system, co-payments and fees. The direct costs estimated in this section, therefore, refer only to those borne by the health system, and exclude those that are incurred on patients. It is also worth mentioning that these results also exclude patients who did not report the need for Post Abortion Care (PAC), as a result of other variables such as social stigma.

This is mainly based on a Princeton University study of costs incurred as a result of unsafe abortions. It was found that:

  • A greater number of women in the Southern-African Region experienced severe side effects after unsafe abortion while the rest, mainly in Kenya, uganda and Nigeria experienced low to moderate effects.
  • About USD128 million is currently being expended on treating the almost 1.2 million hospitalizations due to unsafe abortion. If standard WHO-recommended protocols were being followed, however, an estimated $158 million would be expended. Note that these estimates do not include the millions of women who have serious complications but never reach a health facility.
  • Using the Benson-Crane estimate of 250,000 cases of minor post-abortion complications annually, the total cost of treating minor complications in Africa would be in the $2.1 to $4.1 million range.
  • The out-of-pocket expenses of women seeking PAC are not confined to incidental (or not so incidental) expenses associated with the treatment itself. They also include such expenses as transportation costs to and from the health facility, food and lodging while awaiting treatment, income foregone while seeking treatment, during treatment and after treatment during the recuperation period, as well as any income foregone by other household members while caring for women with post-abortion complications. To date, very little data have been collected on such costs.
  • They calculate that “a one-year increase in life expectancy improves labour productivity by 4 percent”
  • The long-term health consequences of abortion complications have not been well studied. Among those noted in the literature are secondary infertility, hysterectomy, severe anaemia, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Empirical data on the incidence of these long-term morbidities, however, are almost non-existent. The only source of quantitative information on post-abortion morbidities comes from the World Health Organization. A WHO report gives global estimates for both secondary infertility and PID23. According to this report, between 15 and 30 per cent of women having unsafe abortions develop reproductive tract infections (RTI) which can lead to secondary infertility as well as PID. The study also estimates the incidence of infertility at 12 percent of women in Africa.

Safe abortions and how liberal abortion accessibility has positively impacted countries that incorporate it:

Educational Attainment:

  • Abortion access reduced teen fertility and increased women’s college attainment.
  • Increases in postsecondary attainment.
  • Abortion legalization in the 1970s [within the U.S.A] increased Black women’s rates of high school graduation and college attendance: in states offering access, high school graduation increased by 1.3 percent, college entrance by 3.7 percent, and college graduation by 9.6 percent.

How this relates to Namibia:

  • A 2015 study exploring the factors causing dropouts in Namibian schools found that, for all the learners interviewed, 50% of learners dropped out due to pregnancy, 20% dropped out due to economic factors, 15% due to system factors, 11% due to lack of parental involvement, and 4% due to cultural factors.

  • Despite policies which encourage pregnant girls to continue with their education, pregnancy continues to contribute to young girls dropping out of school. The current levels of learner pregnancy as well as the discrimination which pregnant girls face also add to this problem. Some people feel that girls who have a child must stay at home and not continue with their education.

  • Only 8% of women in the age group 25 to 29 years with tertiary education have had children before the age of 20 years while the corresponding figure for women with primary education was 50%, and 42% for those with no education.

  • About 75.2% of teenage pregnancies in Namibia occur amongst teenagers who have never married. 

Labour Market Participation:

  • Abortion access increased women’s participation in the workforce overall, increasing the probability of a woman working 40 weeks or more per year by almost 2 percentage points (from 29 percent). 

  • Effects were stronger for women, increasing participation by 6.9 percentage points, compared with 2 percentage points among all women.

How this relates to Namibia:

  • Chronic unemployment is more prevalent among females.

  • The number of children in a household also affects women’s ability to secure jobs that are far from their homes and have long working hours.

Effects on the next generation:

Children born to women with abortion access:

  • Had lower rates of poverty and receipt of public assistance during childhood, primarily due to a reduction in living with single parents.

  • Were more likely to graduate college and less likely to be single parents receiving public assistance as adults.

How this Relates to Namibia:

  • Adolescent pregnancy has been linked to the perpetuation of poverty across successive generations of women in a family, largely because it interrupts young women’s schooling and reduces their chances of entering the job market

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