Why 2014 Was a Bad Year for Women

The most restrictive abortion laws passed this year


It’s impossible to talk about women’s financial autonomy and upward mobility without talking about reproductive rights.

Research trends have established a link between legal access to birth control and young women achieving employment, increased earning power, graduate school education, and longer-lasting marriages. Further studies determined that delaying having kids and spacing out births help women achieve their career and educational goals.

Clearly a woman’s ability to control when and if she has children greatly impacts her financial autonomy. And the right to an abortion is paramount to that freedom. The issue is far reaching: almost one in three American women will have an abortion by age 45, according to Guttmacher, a policy analysis and public education institute. Of those, 61 percent have one or more children at the time of their procedure. Sixty-nine percent are economically disadvantaged and 73 percent identify as religiously affiliated.

And yet, our nation is currently seeing a dramatic rollback of abortion rights. While the right to an abortion is constitutionally protected, states have passed more abortion restrictions in the past three years than in the previous decade.  

Here are the four most restrictive abortion laws passed and put on the books in 2014.

1. In Mississippi, you cannot get an abortion — even if you’re raped — beyond 20 weeks.

In July 2014, Mississippi enacted a law banning abortion after 20 weeks. While there are exceptions if the woman’s life is in danger or if she faces “permanent injury,” the law does not make allowances for women who become pregnant as the result of sexual assault. One out of every six American women has survived an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime, and RAINN estimates that there were 17,342 pregnancies as a result of rape in 2012. Limited exceptions for fatal abnormalities in the fetus are included as well.

Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas also have a ban on abortion after 20 weeks.

The bigger picture: 42 states now block abortion at a specified point in pregnancy, generally with the exception of the woman’s life being in danger.

2. Indiana and Georgia have banned abortion from being covered by insurance, directly impacting poor women.

Indiana became the 10th state to prevent private insurance companies from covering abortion, with exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the life of the woman or “major bodily function.” However, there is no exemption for fetal anomalies or mental health issues.

Georgia, the 25th state to ban abortion coverage by the Affordable Care Act, now also bans private insurance coverage. Georgia’s ban has no exceptions for rape or incest and a reportedly slim health exception that covers “medical emergencies.”

A 2012 article in Women’s Health Journal, written by three doctors, determined that most American abortion patients are low-income women who must pay “several hundred” dollars for abortion services. Poor women procured these funds by delaying the payment of rent, food, utilities, or other bills. Half of these women could not afford to pay for their abortions themselves.

Laws like those in Georgia and Indiana directly discriminate against low-income women.

The bigger picture: Nine states currently block private insurance coverage of abortion, with the exception of the woman’s life being in danger. Many states permit the purchase of additional abortion coverage.

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