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Carolyn McClanahan

Industry Spotlight > Women in Wealth

Death of Roe v. Wade Is Causing Financial Pain, a Doctor and Advisor Says

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Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, thus ending the constitutional right to an abortion, about half the states are likely to ban the procedure or have already done so.

“This is a big setback for women’s rights both from a health and an economic standpoint,” Dr. Carolyn McClanahan, founder of Life Planning Partners, an RIA, argues in an interview with ThinkAdvisor. “There are many tentacles in many directions because there are so many unintended consequences.” 

Indeed, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in May that reversing Roe v. Wade would have “very damaging effects on the economy and set women back decades.” 

McClanahan, a board-certified physician and as well as a financial advisor, argues: “It’s going to take a further increase in maternity mortality for the world to see how bad it is when you can’t get access to abortion.” 

The U.S., which lacks universal health care, has “the worst rate of maternity care and the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized nation,” she adds.

Formerly an emergency room doctor, McClanahan now practices family medicine as a volunteer at a clinic for the uninsured.

In the interview, she explains the financial ramifications of being denied an abortion and how the reversal of Roe v. Wade will adversely affect such women’s earning potential — and that of their children — resulting eventually in lower Social Security benefits for the women.

According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization focused on reproductive health policy, nearly 1 in 4 women in the U.S. will have an abortion by age 45. The study was released in 2017.

Abortion patients are 39% white, 28% Black, 25% Hispanic and 9% other races and ethnicities, Guttmacher reports.

The No. 1 reason to have an abortion is because the woman cannot afford to have a child, according to the research group.

“Most women who get an abortion already have children and lack the financial and emotional stability to care for yet more,” McClanahan notes.

In states where abortions are banned or restricted, women have suffered more bankruptcies, evictions and higher debt versus those who chose and received an abortion, an analysis by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows.

The Supreme Court’s decision to abolish the right to an abortion is “basically a war on women’s rights and women’s economic opportunities,” McClanahan maintains.

Women in states where abortion remains legal are networking to help those living in states where the procedure is already banned or is likely to be outlawed. 

Resources are available online, some of which McClanahan provides in the interview.

ThinkAdvisor recently spoke with the advisor and physician, who was on the phone from Jacksonville, Florida, where her firm is based.

She switched careers after returning to school to learn about financial planning when advisors she interviewed about investing her and her husband’s assets were “like salespeople and didn’t do real financial planning.”

After a stint at an insurance company, she opened her own fee-only practice in 2004.

At the nexus of finance and medicine, McClanahan, 58, lectures to both advisors and medical professionals on the intersections of health and finance.

Here are excerpts from our interview:

THINKADVISOR: What are your thoughts about the Supreme Court’s decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and abolished the nationwide right to an abortion?

CAROLYN McCLANAHAN: This is a big setback for women’s rights both from a health and an economic standpoint.

There are many tentacles in many directions, both financial and economic, because there are so many unintended consequences.

The majority of the country supports access to abortion.

If people don’t understand that [the Supreme Court’s decision] is basically a war on women’s rights and women’s economic opportunities, I don’t know what they’re thinking.

What is the financial impact on women who are denied access to abortion and give birth?

Half the abortions are done in women who are already living in poverty, and another quarter, in women who are 100% at the poverty level. They are financially devastated.

Women who have an unintended pregnancy and can’t get an abortion achieve a lower educational status. They don’t get higher degrees, and they end up having less earning potential.

Both in the short term and long term, it doesn’t allow them to save money for their future, and their Social Security checks are going to be smaller.

What other impact will the abortion ban have?

That unintended pregnancy [brought to term] will have an effect on the woman for a lifetime. And it will also have an effect on the children that are born. 

They’ll have lower educational levels and are more likely to end up in poverty too. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

The women who are poor, have poor access to transportation [to travel to a state where abortion is legal] and can’t get off work are the ones who are going to really struggle.

What about single, middle-class working women who can’t afford to raise a child? How does abortion denial affect them financially?

Even before Roe v. Wade, the women that had money found a way to get an abortion. And they will now.

Most women who get abortions already have children and lack the financial and emotional stability to care for yet more.

Will access to abortion pills be restricted too?

People are already encroaching upon that access. Now there’s going to be a big underground way for women to be able to get access to the pills.

But again, there will be an economic divider: Women who know people who can get to these services are going to be more likely to receive them. 

It’s the women in poverty who will have a hard time getting access.

How much would expanded access to free birth control help the situation?

In Colorado, they had free birth control and easy access to it, and their abortion rates went down dramatically.

So why aren’t the people who want to outlaw abortion putting more money toward free birth control?

But their next move is to further restrict it.

What recourse is there for women who can’t get an abortion in their state?

A lot of women in states where there’s legalized abortion are mobilizing to help them.

There are organizations that will help provide for travel and some of the costs of an abortion. They include https://abortionfunds.org/need-abortion/, https://brigidalliance.org/  and https://prochoice.org/patients/naf-hotline/.

What impact will the court’s decision have on the economy of the states that outlaw abortions?

Long-term studies in multiple states on women who had abortions and those who weren’t able to get one showed a huge economic discrepancy between what happened with those two cohorts.

For the ones who were denied abortion, there was poverty and not being able to have basic living expenses, more bankruptcies, evictions, higher debt.

If you overlay a map of poverty in the U.S. on a map of the U.S. showing the states that have restrictions on abortion, the two maps almost mirror each other.

So those states will see a further decline in the standard of living and economic well-being for all their citizens — not just women.

Both access to abortion and COVID vaccinations have been politicized. Please comment.

The anti-vaccine people don’t realize the beauty of true medicine and science.

Basically, it’s the Republican Party that has pushed for overturning Roe v. Wade for about 30 years. 

They’ve gradually been getting all their dominoes lined up between the judicial branches, state houses and the federal government branches to be prepared for this to happen.

What’s the most negative implication of the court’s abortion decision?

It’s going to take a further increase in maternity mortality for the world to see how bad it is when you can’t have access to abortion.

As an ER doctor, even when abortion was [constitutionally] legal, I had patients who had septic abortions because of lack of access and so many restrictions.

What are the physical risks to women that are associated with pregnancy as opposed to abortion?

When a woman isn’t prepared to have a baby, the health risk of carrying one to term is much, much higher than an abortion, especially for women of color.

In a complicated pregnancy, such as a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy [fetus grows outside uterus], it puts the woman’s life at great risk. And the treatment for those pregnancies is their termination.

So the abortion laws are affecting a doctor’s ability to take care of the health of the woman in the event of those situations.

The U.S. has the worst rate of maternity care and the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized nation.

We don’t have universal health care, which is just a shame. How can you improve your economic standing?