Restrictions on abortion access resulting from the Supreme Court’s Dobbs Decision will have major consequences and lasting impacts for low-income women and families, many of whom are receiving federal housing assistance. In addition to a host of socio-emotional and physical challenges, unintended pregnancies and births can further financial troubles and push families more deeply into poverty. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, children cost an average of $233,610 to raise, which can be a daunting task for a family that is already struggling to afford basic life necessities. This cost burden also falls more deeply on women of color due to unequal access to contraceptive options and who are less likely to be able to travel to access safe, legalized abortions.
Forced births can have lasting impacts on these women’s health as well. In fact, access to legalized abortions has been found to reduce maternal mortality among Black women by 30-40%. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. There impacts for children, too. Access to legal abortions improves outcomes for the entire generation of children, reducing the number of children in poverty and on public assistance, reducing the rates of child maltreatment, and increasing the likelihood of children going to college. You can learn more about the myriad impacts of the recent changes in abortion legalization via Brookings’ article “What can economic research tell us about the effect of abortion access on women’s lives?”
Public housing authorities serve low-income individuals in their communities. The Dobbs Decision’s effects directly threaten PHAs’ efforts to improve health and economic outcomes for the families they house. With two-thirds of PHA residents being Black, Indigenous, or people of color according to data from HUD’s Picture of Subsidized Households, PHAs understand they play a critical role in addressing racial inequities through increased focus on maternal health.
CLPHA member PHAs are leaders in advancing maternal health equity for low-income women. The Biden-Harris Administration asked CLPHA’s Housing Is Initiative to participate in its Maternal Health Call to Action in recognition of its leadership in bridging the gap between housing and maternal health. CLPHA held a special Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event on the intersection of racial inequities, housing insecurity, and maternal health outcomes. The webinar highlighted the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority’s programming that seeks to strengthen housing stability with the goals of addressing infant mortality, reducing adverse birth outcomes, and improving health outcomes for women and their infants, all with a strong focus on reducing racial disparities. At CLPHA’s 2022 Housing Is Summit, we also hosted a plenary on maternal health equity where Dr. Jamila Taylor, Director of Health Care Reform and Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, outlined the country’s black maternal health crisis and the New York City Housing Authority discussed their innovative maternal health programming.
CLPHA members have long known that helping moms and their babies thrive provides a crucial leg-up in life for low-income families and advances racial equity for the people of color that they serve, and restrictions on abortion access directly controvert PHAs’ critical work in this arena.