Just Taxes Blog by ITEP

Abortion-Restricting States Skimp on Funding for Children

November 9, 2023

States differ dramatically in how much they allow families to make choices about whether and when to have children and how much support they provide when families do. But there is a clear pattern: the states that compel childbirth spend less to help children once they are born.

After June 2022 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the precedent that had protected reproductive rights for almost 50 years, state lawmakers began to enact or enforce abortion bans.[1] Currently, 17 states enforce strict abortion bans: 15 near-total bans and two bans after six weeks of pregnancy. In 34 states, including D.C., abortion rights are protected.

The states that force women to carry unwanted pregnancies to term include Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, which ban abortion entirely, and Georgia and South Carolina, which impose a six-week ban. These states have some of the least generous tax, spending, and labor market policies for families in the U.S.

None of the 17 states forcing childbirth have refundable child tax credits (CTCs), a policy that helps families pay for a small share of the enormous costs of raising kids. Eleven pro-choice states will have these refundable child tax credits in 2024 – California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. Idaho and Oklahoma, which restrict abortion rights, and Utah, which protects abortion rights, offer nonrefundable credits which are helpful to many but leave out the poorest families. State child tax credits vary in size but are now larger than they’ve ever been with seven states offering refundable credits of more than $1,000 per child (Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont). The nation’s highest credit, $1,750 per child, is in Minnesota.

Just four of the 17 abortion-restrictive states provide refundable Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) to assist low-income parents, something 23 of the 34 pro-choice states now offer. EITCs vary widely in quality, size, and eligibility from 10 percent or less of the $3,995 per child federal credit in Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Oregon to 85 percent or more of the federal credit (which can be as much as $7,430 for large families) in California, Washington D.C., Maryland, and South Carolina.[2] Two pro-choice states – Washington D.C. and Washington state – actually provide more than the federal credit. Two of the abortion-restricting states provide nonrefundable EITCs which help families but are less helpful to the lowest-income families who struggle the most. One best practice is to include immigrant families who file taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) – legislators have made these families eligible for the EITC in 11 states and for the CTC in 10 states.

All but two of the abortion-banning states rank in the bottom half on education funding per child – the exceptions are North Dakota (18) and Wisconsin (26 among 51 states, counting D.C. as a state). Five of the 10 states spending the least on education in 2021 are among the states that will now severely restrict reproductive rights. All states spending in the top 10 per pupil on public K-12 education are pro-choice states.

All but two of the states forcing childbirth also score in the bottom half in an assessment of spending on poor children published by the American Association of Pediatrics that examines cash assistance, housing aid, EITC, child care, and medical assistance between 2011 and 2017. The abortion-restrictive states comprise eight of the 10 stingiest among the rankings. All the top 10 states for such spending protect abortion rights. The study found that states that spend more on these combined benefits had fewer substantiated cases of child abuse, lower rates of foster care placement, and fewer childhood deaths due to abuse.

In addition to doing less through public spending to improve the lives of families with children, abortion-restrictive states do less through labor law to make it possible for working people to take care of children. Not one of the abortion-banning states require employers to provide paid parental leave, something now on the books in 14 pro-choice states (including D.C.). This means that after forcing someone to remain pregnant and have a baby, these states would not ensure any paid time off to recover from birth or care for the new baby.

Abortion-restrictive states also do less to ensure that workers earn better wages. Thirteen of the 20 states whose minimum wage is at or below the federal level are on the abortion-banning list. All 15 of the states with minimum wages above $12.00 an hour in 2023 are pro-choice.

These issues go far beyond economics: No amount of money can justify forcing someone to carry a pregnancy or bear a child. But public policy can and should do more to support parents, children, and families.

The correlation is clear – on a variety of measures, the states that plan to force children to be born also do less to help them thrive once they are.

[1] Citizens subsequently protected abortion rights through ballot initiatives in Kansas, Kentucky, Montana and Michigan and Ohio, so the map illustrating abortion access no longer reflects just legislative choices but also conveys judicial and citizen action.

[2] https://itep.org/boosting-incomes-improving-equity-state-earned-income-tax-credits-in-2023/. One key quality measure is whether the credit is refundable, the more inclusive approach, or non-refundable, leaving out the poorest families. Utah, Missouri, Ohio and South Carolina offer non-refundable EITCs and Virginia and Delaware have EITCs that are partially refundable.


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