Connecting economic and reproductive justice

Written by NYAAF volunteer Chanel Dubofsky. Chanel lives in Brooklyn is interested in your personal choices.

Funding abortion is about more than helping someone end a pregnancy. It can also interrupt a cycle of poverty and economic insecurity. Recently, the New York Women’s Foundation released their Economic Security and Well Being Index, and the findings confirm the need for the vital work of NYAAF. Among the more startling statistics about women and girls in New York City (including the 5 boroughs) include:

  • Approximately one in five young women in New York City lives in poverty, slightly higher than the citywide rate of 17.9% for all women.
  • Among teens in the highest-poverty neighborhoods in New York City, 85.9% of pregnancies are unintended.
  • Over the past decade or so, New York City’s teen pregnancy rate has exceeded the national rate by 21%—85.4 per 1,000 girls compared to 70.6 per 70.6 per 1,000.
  • The maternal mortality rate has increased nearly 30% over a 10-year period in the city.
  • In New York City, single mothers head one in five households with children under the age of 18, compared to just 2 percent of households headed by single fathers.
  • In New York City 39.7% of households headed by single mothers with children under the age of 18 live in poverty.

Lest you drown in a puddle of statistics and facts, let’s do some unpacking. New York is a divided city: “The day-to-day lived realities of women and girls in the South Bronx are worlds apart from those living on the Upper East or West Sides of Manhattan. “ (Borough Highlights, p.6) The gaps in access to education, employment, and other resources also means inequities in access to all kinds of health care, including abortion. The ability to afford a safe abortion can be the difference between remaining in or falling into poverty and being a step closer to coming out of it. It impacts the entire family, and in a city where the maternal mortality rate is increasing (the 30% statistic is staggering), every baby should be a wanted baby who can receive prenatal care.

Recently, a campaign to prevent teen pregnancy took to the New York City subways. The ads shame teens (read: mothers) by purporting to inform them about realities of becoming young parents. One such ad says, “If you finish high school, get a job, and get married before having children, you have a 98% chance of not being in poverty.” The results of the NYWF index tell us that for many young women in New York, poverty is where they already live, regardless of whether or not they are parents. Factors such as race, class and geographical location in the city intersect with gender, perpetuating a situation that hurts women, babies, and communities.

The NYWF findings reinforce the need for a closer look at the distribution of New York City’s resources and the focus of its attention. It’s a call to arms for those working for economic and reproductive justice and education, as well as for everyone and anyone looking to directly impact the reality of women and girls in the city. And if you were wondering how to do that, make a donation to NYAAF.