For an alternate viewpoint, see “Counterpoint: Abortion Is a Minor Issue.”

Those who perpetuate the perception that abortion is a standalone issue, separate from “important issues,” are endangering Americans. All Americans.

Right-wing extremists try to deceive voters into thinking that abortion bans won’t negatively affect their lives — whether they know anyone who ever needed the procedure or not. They mischaracterize it as a women’s issue, demonize it as a moral failure,  dismiss it as a mere “distraction,” and use it as a reliable dog whistle to rally their base. But before they cast their ballots in a few days, Americans need to understand one obvious fact: Banning abortion affects all of us.

Across the country, we hear stories of ordinary people whose lives were unexpectedly upended by abortion restrictions — many of whom may have even supported these bans. These Americans have become collateral damage to draconian, narrow-minded, misogynistic and hypocritical policies.

As history has proven, abortion started out as an economic issue in the 19th century after male doctors successfully lobbied to prohibit the procedure when the growing influence of midwives threatened their businesses. And as polls indicate that inflation is top of mind for most voters, it’s critical to understand that reproductive rights are inextricably linked to economic health.

According to the  Guttmacher Institute, 75 percent of women who seek abortion services are low-income and financial insecurity is the most commonly cited reason women seek abortion care. Women can’t fully participate in our workforce or make the critical economic contributions this country needs if they are forced to carry unintended — or non-viable — pregnancies against their will.

Instead,  data show that women who are denied abortions are more likely to experience long-term poverty.  The Turnaway Study examined the effects of unwanted pregnancies on women and children and concluded that women who were “denied an abortion had almost four times greater odds of a household income below the federal poverty level and three times greater odds of being unemployed.”

Despite already facing systemic misogyny and wage disparities, women are one of America’s greatest economic resources. Limiting women’s options in life through restrictions like abortion bans can contribute to severe economic decline, but ensuring they have equal access to opportunity by protecting their bodily autonomy can catalyze prolonged and sustained growth. According to  a recent report from Moody’s, the United States could get a “$1 trillion boost over the next 10 years if female labor market participation grew to the levels seen in other developed economies.”

Before the COVID pandemic,  Census data revealed that “women-owned employer firms reported nearly $1.8 trillion in sales, shipments, receipts or revenue and employed over 10.1 million workers with an annual payroll of $388.1 billion in 2018.”

But, discussions of women’s economic empowerment are completely moot if we deny them equal access to basic but critical medical care for treatable conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. RA is extremely painful when not managed with medications like methotrexate, which has been a standard treatment for the disease for nearly  60 years — it can also be used to terminate pregnancies in  high dosages.

Despite its  classification as an essential medication by the World Health Organization due to its versatility in treating a variety of conditions — from Crohn’s disease to leukemia — some medical providers are refusing (or are too afraid) to refill similar prescriptions for women with autoimmune diseases who are of “child-bearing age,” whether they’re pregnant or never intend to get pregnant.

And, as if the American health care system didn’t already completely fail and endanger women (for proof, look no further than our shameful maternal mortality rates), abortion bans now put lawyers squarely in operating rooms. Women living in states with abortion restrictions have been  forced to continue carrying dead fetuses and have suffered from  ectopic pregnancies that ruptured because the doctors had to discuss treatment with lawyers.

How can anyone — regardless of gender — trust the care they receive when providers fear facing life in prison for carrying out life-saving treatments? When doctors take the Hippocratic oath, it isn’t littered with clauses and amendments. “Do no harm” was never meant to be limited by terms and conditions imposed by extremist lawmakers.

While many may argue that archaic policies are pushing us back in time, the intensified attacks on abortion are throwing us into a new, more dangerous era that puts women’s lives at risk and threatens the future of this country.