Reproductive Rights, Hunger, and the Midterms

Abby J. Leibman
November 4, 2022

Next week, voters nationwide will go to the polls and tell us what kind of future they want for our country.

No matter how the red-blue divide gets drawn, those of us who care about social justice issues will need to keep fighting beyond the elections.

The battle is always about whether and how we prevent millions of people nationwide from falling further into poverty and hunger — among them are millions of women who head households in America. As their economic security weakens further, we will see even more people experience food insecurity and hunger.

In fact, the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade is part of nothing short of a war on women, including limiting their personal autonomy, their ability to manage the size of their families, and the economic pressures that increase when that control is lost. Instead of additional support for these women and other struggling families, the same ideology that sought to restrict women’s reproductive freedoms also seeks to curtail basic social services for the most vulnerable.

There is clearly a direct correlation between the states with the weakest social safety nets and those with the most extreme anti-reproductive rights measures post-Dobbs. In fact, among the 15 states that have banned abortion or restricted pregnancy termination after six weeks, seven of them are among the ten states with the highest rates of food insecurity.

This also means the most vulnerable women among us will suffer the most in this post-Roe v. Wade world. Studies show that about 60 percent of women who seek abortions in the U.S. are already mothers, half of whom have two or more children. Further, almost half of the people who have abortions live below the poverty line, and another quarter live near poverty.

The movement to restrict abortion access is not only anathema to our values and to overwhelming public opinion — it underscores a deep hypocrisy that we see play out every day with anti-hunger policies. Legislators seeking to restrict abortion access are often the same ones trying to undermine programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) — proven supports that help people feed themselves and their families as they gain financial security and stability.

When a stunning 30 percent of single mothers and their children live in poverty, hunger in this country is a national disgrace. Exacerbating it will prove devastating, not only for these families but to our economy and our very national security. While programs like SNAP and WIC provide crucial benefits for families in need, they remain modest compared to other government spending. They offer a lifeline, but not yet the meaningful support that can lift these families out of poverty.

Still, the post-Dobbs landscape does offer glimmers of hope that we’ll be able to defend and protect women’s reproductive rights from further evisceration and the mothers who are desperate to keep themselves and their children from falling deeper into poverty. The August 2 state referendum in Kansas defeated a measure to outlaw abortion. That vote not only surprised most political expectations but set the stage for women to rally to the polls for the mid-term elections.

A recent American Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 61 percent of all Americans opposed the overturning of Roe v. Wade, with 67 percent saying this issue motivates them to vote in the midterms. Though other surveys show the economy, not abortion, remains voters’ top priority, it is clear that these two issues are inextricably linked.

In fact, another recent poll from Ms. Magazine and Feminist Majority Foundation found that among women voters of all ages in battleground states, abortion and women’s rights are tied with inflation and rising prices in determining their votes

Women know that their economic futures are threatened when they lose control of their bodies and lives.

It remains critical that we all go to the polls to elect those who understand the realities of women’s lives and defend against those who would further erode women’s freedoms. With Congress also soon turning to reauthorizing the all-important Farm Bill, we need to ensure that food assistance programs like SNAP are strengthened so that all those facing hunger can access the aid they need and deserve.

The power to protect our bodies and our futures remains in our hands — and at the polls next week.