Link collection: Evidence that pro-life laws mean fewer unplanned pregnancies.

Pro-life laws decrease abortion in two ways. The direct and more obvious way is by decreasing the number of pregnant women who get abortions. A wide body of research (part 1, part 2) demonstrates that when abortion is restricted abortion rates go down and birth rates go up.

But pro-life laws also decrease abortion in an indirect way: by decreasing unintended pregnancies. The idea is that people perceive abortion as an insurance policy. As Donahue & Levitt explain:

The decline in births is far less than the number of abortions, suggesting that the number of conceptions increased substantially—an example of insurance leading to moral hazard. The insurance that abortion provides against unwanted pregnancy induces more sexual conduct or diminished protections against pregnancy in a way that substantially increases the number of pregnancies.

If people know that in the event of unplanned pregnancy they can always get abortions, they’re more likely to engage in risky sex.

There’s quite a lot of research to suggest this is true. Liberalized abortion policy has been associated with increased STD rates, decreased use of effective contraception, and the aforementioned increase in unintended pregnancies. Below, in chronological order, are studies that found these and other similar results.

***

“An analysis of 12 years of state-level data indicate that restrictions are associated with a reduction in abortions and either no change or a reduction in births, implying fewer pregnancies.” The Effect of Medicaid Abortion Funding Restrictions on Abortions, Pregnancies, and Births, Journal of Health Economics, October 1996

“In particular, the results suggest that residents in counties with longer travel distances to the nearest abortion provider have lower abortion rates and lower pregnancy rates.” The impact of provider availability on abortion demand, Contemporary Economic Policy, April 1996

“We find that countries which changed from very restrictive to liberal abortion laws experienced a large reduction in births, highlighting the insurance value. Changes from modest restrictions to abortion available upon request, however, led to no such change in births despite large increases in abortions, indicating that pregnancies rose as well.” Abortion as Insurance, National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2002

“We find that gonorrhea and syphilis incidences are significantly and positively correlated with abortion legalization. Further, we find a divergence in STD rates among early legalizing states and late legalizing states starting in 1970 and a subsequent convergence after the Roe v. Wade decision, indicating that the relation between STDs and abortion is causal.” The effect of abortion legalization on sexual behavior: evidence from sexually transmitted diseases. The Journal of Legal Studies, June 2003

“Parental involvement laws resulted in fewer abortions for minors resulting from fewer pregnancies; there is no statistically significant impact on births. The reduction in pregnancy seems to be attributable to increased use of contraception rather than a reduction in sexual activity.” Parental involvement laws and fertility behavior. Journal of Health Economics, September 2003

“Legalization itself is found to reduce the number of unwanted births. Beyond that, imposing moderate abortion restrictions do not appear to significantly increase unwanted births; abortions and pregnancies decline instead.” Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility, Society, May 2004

“First, the availability of abortion providers has the expected effect of reducing the supply of infants relinquished, particularly relative to the demand for abortion. Second, abortion law has an unexpected negative effect. This suggests that as abortion laws become more restrictive the total number of unwanted births may decrease.” The supply of infants relinquished for adoption: Did access to abortion make a difference? Economic Inquiry, July 2007

“Our results indicate that the enactment of parental involvement laws significantly reduces risky sexual activity among teenage girls.” Abortion Access and Risky Sex Among Teens: Parental Involvement Laws and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 2008

“Taken together the empirical results are consistent with the hypothesis that women’s sexual behavior is influenced by the direct and indirect cost of obtaining an abortion.” Abortion costs, sexual behavior, and pregnancy rates, The Social Science Jounral, March 2008

“We find restrictions on abortion availability (through abortion legislation mandating parental consent or notification) induce women to utilize birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies, while pro-choice sentiments in the legislature may have the opposite effect.” Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws Matter? International Journal of Business and Social Science, September 2011

“A state’s antiabortion attitudes, which likely contribute to the enactment of restrictive abortion laws in a state, are a major factor in inducing greater use of highly effective contraceptive methods by adult women at-risk of an unintended pregnancy.” Restrictive abortion laws, antiabortion attitudes and women’s contraceptive use, Social Science Research, January 2012

“While county‐level access to emergency contraception was unrelated to trends in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and abortions before access changed, access afterwards led to a statistically significant increase in STD rates (gonorrhea rates), both overall and for females. We do not find, however, an impact of pharmacy access on abortion or birth rates.” The effects of increased access to emergency contraception on sexually transmitted disease and abortion rates, Economic Inquiry, December 2012 (Note: This study was not examining abortion policy as related to pregnancy. It is a similar study examining how the availability of emergency conctraception was associated with increases in STDs. Like with abortion, emergency contraception may decrease the perceived risk of sex and so increase the instances of less protected sex.)


“Fewer abortion providers increase the likelihood of women using the pill.” Utilization of oral contraception: The impact of direct and indirect restrictions on access to abortion, The Social Science Journal, March 2014

“We find that providing individuals with over‐the‐counter access to EBC leads to increase STD rates and has no effect on abortion rates.” Access to Emergency Contraception and its Impact on Fertility and Sexual Behavior, Health Economics, February 2015 (Note: Like the Economic Inquiry study above, this study is not examining abortion policy and pregnancy, but it demonstrates a similar phenomenon wherein people make riskier sexual decisions when they have an ‘insurance’ policy available such as emergency contraception.),

“Our findings reveal that restrictions on abortion funding have a significant and positive impact on a woman’s decision to use the pill.” The Role of Restrictive Abortion Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use, Clinics in Mother and Child Health, October 2015

“Similarly, women in states characterized by high abortion hostility (i.e., states with four or more types of restrictive policies in place) were more likely to use highly effective [contraceptive] methods than were women in states with less hostility.” State Abortion Context and U.S. Women’s Contraceptive Choices, 1995–2010, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, June 2015

“We find evidence to suggest that [Parental Involvement] laws are associated with an increase in the probability that sexually active minor teen females use birth control.” The effect of parental involvement laws on teen birth control use. Journal of Health Economics, January 2016

Further reading: This article from The Cut illustrates the thought process that can connect unplanned pregnancy rates and abortion availability. In this case, the woman is clearly educated about reproduction and she has knowledge of and access to contraception, but she is not as careful as she may otherwise have been partly because she knows she can get an abortion if need be.

I knew that the time I was sloppy with protection right before ovulation would put me at risk for getting pregnant. I’m the kind of woman who learns about fertility for fun, who genuinely enjoys reading about cervical fluid, egg freezing, and progesterone spikes. Which is why I knew I should have taken Plan B after that slipup and was hard on myself when I didn’t. But I also knew that if an unplanned pregnancy did occur, I’d have options in New York City.

Link collection: Evidence that pro-life laws mean fewer unplanned pregnancies.

Pro-life laws decrease abortion in two ways. The direct and more obvious way is by decreasing the number of pregnant women who get abortions. A wide body of research (part 1, part 2) demonstrates that when abortion is restricted abortion rates go down and birth rates go up.

But pro-life laws also decrease abortion in an indirect way: by decreasing unintended pregnancies. The idea is that people perceive abortion as an insurance policy. As Donahue & Levitt explain:

The decline in births is far less than the number of abortions, suggesting that the number of conceptions increased substantially—an example of insurance leading to moral hazard. The insurance that abortion provides against unwanted pregnancy induces more sexual conduct or diminished protections against pregnancy in a way that substantially increases the number of pregnancies.

If people know that in the event of unplanned pregnancy they can always get abortions, they’re more likely to engage in risky sex.

There’s quite a lot of research to suggest this is true. Liberalized abortion policy has been associated with increased STD rates, decreased use of effective contraception, and the aforementioned increase in unintended pregnancies. Below, in chronological order, are studies that found these and other similar results.

***

“An analysis of 12 years of state-level data indicate that restrictions are associated with a reduction in abortions and either no change or a reduction in births, implying fewer pregnancies.” The Effect of Medicaid Abortion Funding Restrictions on Abortions, Pregnancies, and Births, Journal of Health Economics, October 1996

“In particular, the results suggest that residents in counties with longer travel distances to the nearest abortion provider have lower abortion rates and lower pregnancy rates.” The impact of provider availability on abortion demand, Contemporary Economic Policy, April 1996

“We find that countries which changed from very restrictive to liberal abortion laws experienced a large reduction in births, highlighting the insurance value. Changes from modest restrictions to abortion available upon request, however, led to no such change in births despite large increases in abortions, indicating that pregnancies rose as well.” Abortion as Insurance, National Bureau of Economic Research, February 2002

“We find that gonorrhea and syphilis incidences are significantly and positively correlated with abortion legalization. Further, we find a divergence in STD rates among early legalizing states and late legalizing states starting in 1970 and a subsequent convergence after the Roe v. Wade decision, indicating that the relation between STDs and abortion is causal.” The effect of abortion legalization on sexual behavior: evidence from sexually transmitted diseases. The Journal of Legal Studies, June 2003

“Parental involvement laws resulted in fewer abortions for minors resulting from fewer pregnancies; there is no statistically significant impact on births. The reduction in pregnancy seems to be attributable to increased use of contraception rather than a reduction in sexual activity.” Parental involvement laws and fertility behavior. Journal of Health Economics, September 2003

“Legalization itself is found to reduce the number of unwanted births. Beyond that, imposing moderate abortion restrictions do not appear to significantly increase unwanted births; abortions and pregnancies decline instead.” Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility, Society, May 2004

“First, the availability of abortion providers has the expected effect of reducing the supply of infants relinquished, particularly relative to the demand for abortion. Second, abortion law has an unexpected negative effect. This suggests that as abortion laws become more restrictive the total number of unwanted births may decrease.” The supply of infants relinquished for adoption: Did access to abortion make a difference? Economic Inquiry, July 2007

“Our results indicate that the enactment of parental involvement laws significantly reduces risky sexual activity among teenage girls.” Abortion Access and Risky Sex Among Teens: Parental Involvement Laws and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 2008

“Taken together the empirical results are consistent with the hypothesis that women’s sexual behavior is influenced by the direct and indirect cost of obtaining an abortion.” Abortion costs, sexual behavior, and pregnancy rates, The Social Science Jounral, March 2008

“We find restrictions on abortion availability (through abortion legislation mandating parental consent or notification) induce women to utilize birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies, while pro-choice sentiments in the legislature may have the opposite effect.” Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws Matter? International Journal of Business and Social Science, September 2011

“A state’s antiabortion attitudes, which likely contribute to the enactment of restrictive abortion laws in a state, are a major factor in inducing greater use of highly effective contraceptive methods by adult women at-risk of an unintended pregnancy.” Restrictive abortion laws, antiabortion attitudes and women’s contraceptive use, Social Science Research, January 2012

“While county‐level access to emergency contraception was unrelated to trends in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and abortions before access changed, access afterwards led to a statistically significant increase in STD rates (gonorrhea rates), both overall and for females. We do not find, however, an impact of pharmacy access on abortion or birth rates.” The effects of increased access to emergency contraception on sexually transmitted disease and abortion rates, Economic Inquiry, December 2012 (Note: This study was not examining abortion policy as related to pregnancy. It is a similar study examining how the availability of emergency conctraception was associated with increases in STDs. Like with abortion, emergency contraception may decrease the perceived risk of sex and so increase the instances of less protected sex.)


“Fewer abortion providers increase the likelihood of women using the pill.” Utilization of oral contraception: The impact of direct and indirect restrictions on access to abortion, The Social Science Journal, March 2014

“We find that providing individuals with over‐the‐counter access to EBC leads to increase STD rates and has no effect on abortion rates.” Access to Emergency Contraception and its Impact on Fertility and Sexual Behavior, Health Economics, February 2015 (Note: Like the Economic Inquiry study above, this study is not examining abortion policy and pregnancy, but it demonstrates a similar phenomenon wherein people make riskier sexual decisions when they have an ‘insurance’ policy available such as emergency contraception.),

“Our findings reveal that restrictions on abortion funding have a significant and positive impact on a woman’s decision to use the pill.” The Role of Restrictive Abortion Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use, Clinics in Mother and Child Health, October 2015

“Similarly, women in states characterized by high abortion hostility (i.e., states with four or more types of restrictive policies in place) were more likely to use highly effective [contraceptive] methods than were women in states with less hostility.” State Abortion Context and U.S. Women’s Contraceptive Choices, 1995–2010, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, June 2015

“We find evidence to suggest that [Parental Involvement] laws are associated with an increase in the probability that sexually active minor teen females use birth control.” The effect of parental involvement laws on teen birth control use. Journal of Health Economics, January 2016

Further reading: This article from The Cut illustrates the thought process that can connect unplanned pregnancy rates and abortion availability. In this case, the woman is clearly educated about reproduction and she has knowledge of and access to contraception, but she is not as careful as she may otherwise have been partly because she knows she can get an abortion if need be.

I knew that the time I was sloppy with protection right before ovulation would put me at risk for getting pregnant. I’m the kind of woman who learns about fertility for fun, who genuinely enjoys reading about cervical fluid, egg freezing, and progesterone spikes. Which is why I knew I should have taken Plan B after that slipup and was hard on myself when I didn’t. But I also knew that if an unplanned pregnancy did occur, I’d have options in New York City.

More evidence that abortion restrictions decrease abortion rates.

As a follow up to our previous post (Pro-life laws stop abortions. Here’s the evidence.) here in chronological order are more studies suggesting that abortion restrictions do decrease abortion—and not just legal abortion, but abortion in general. Note how many of the studies focus on how abortion policy affects birth rates rather than only the abortion rate itself.

“If all states observed the Hyde Amendment restrictions, many thousands of Medicaid-eligible women who would have obtained abortions under the 1977 funding policy would not receive them.” The impact of restricting Medicaid financing for abortion. Family Planning Perspectives, June 1980

“Analysis of statewide data from the three States indicated that following restrictions on State funding of abortions, the proportion of reported pregnancies resulting in births, rather than in abortions, increased in all three States.” Trends in rates of live births and abortions following state restrictions on public funding of abortion. Public Health Reports, December 1990

“The data show that 13% fewer had abortions in August through December than would have been expected on the basis of the number who had abortions in January through July.” The Effects of Mandatory Delay Laws on Abortion Patients and Providers, Family Planning Perspectives, October 1994

“A maximal estimate suggests that 22 percent of the abortions among low-income women that are publicly funded do not take place after funding is eliminated.” State Abortion Rates: The Impact of Policies, Providers, Politics, Demographics, and Economic Environment, Journal of Health Economics, October 1996.

“Access variables, including the restrictiveness of state laws regulating abortion, state funding of abortions for poor women and the availability of hospital abortions, affect abortion rates directly.” The role of access in explaining state abortion rates, Social Science & Medicine, April 1997

“The incidence of abortion is found to be lower in states where access to providers is reduced and state policies are restrictive.” The effects of economic conditions and access to reproductive health services on state abortion rates and birthrates. Family Planning Perspectives, April 1997

“The decline in geographic access to abortion providers during the 1980s accounted for a small but significant portion of the rise in the percentage of women heading families.” State abortion policy, geographic access to abortion providers and changing family formation. Family Planning Perspectives. December 1998.

“States legalizing abortion experienced a 4% decline in fertility relative to states where the legal status of abortion was unchanged.” Roe v. Wade and American fertility, American Journal of Public Health, February 1999

“The Texas parental notification law was associated with a decline in abortion rates among minors from 15 to 17 years of age.” Changes in Abortions and Births and the Texas Parental Notification Law, The New England Journal of Medicine, March 2006

“Our results indicate that much of the reduction in fertility at the time abortion was legalized was permanent in that women did not have more subsequent births as a result.” Abortion Legalization and Lifecycle Fertility, The Journal of Human Resources, 2007

“The empirical results find that increases in the price of an abortion and the enforcement of a Parental Involvement Law decrease the number of infants available for adoption in a state. States that do not fund Medicaid abortions do not have higher rates of infant relinquishment.” The effect of abortion costs on adoption in the USA, International Journal of Social Economics, 2008

“Overall, the results show that laws that increased minors’ access to abortion in the 1960s and 1970s had a larger impact on minors’ birthrates than laws that increased oral contraceptive access.” Fertility Effects of Abortion and Birth Control Pill Access for Minors, Demography, November 2008

“Approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable.” Restrictions on Medicaid Funding for Abortions: A Literature Review, Guttmacher Institute, June 2009

“Robustness tests supported the association between access to abortion and decreased birthrates, while the relationship between access to the pill and birthrates received less support.” Abortion or Pill Access Is Associated with Lower Birthrates Among Minors, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, March 2009

“Minors in states with mandatory waiting periods were more than two times as likely to report an unintended birth.” How Are Restrictive Abortion Statutes Associated With Unintended Teen Birth? Journal of Adolescent Health, August 2010

“A series of regressions on a comprehensive time series cross-sectional data set provides evidence that several types of state-level anti-abortion legislation result in statistically significant declines in both the abortion rate and the abortion ratio.” Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, March 2011

“[If Roe v. Wade were overturned] abortion rates would fall by 14.9 percent nationally, resulting in at most, 178,800 additional births or 4.2 percent of the U.S. total in 2008. A ban in 17 states would result in a 6.0 percent decline in abortions and at most, 1.7 percent rise in births.” Back to the Future? Abortion Before & After Roe, National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2012

“The empirical results add to the substantial body of peer-reviewed research which finds that public funding restrictions, parental involvement laws, and properly designed informed consent laws all reduce the incidence of abortion.” Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era – A Reassessment, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, July 2014

“We estimated that each year more than 4000 US women are denied an abortion because of facility gestational limits and must carry unwanted pregnancies to term.” Denial of Abortion Because of Provider Gestational Age Limits in the United States American Public Health Association August 2014

“I estimate an increase in the birthrate of 4% to 12% when abortion is restricted. In the absence of anti-abortion laws, fertility would have been 5% to 12% lower in the early twentieth century.” The Effect of Anti-Abortion Legislation on Nineteenth Century Fertility, Demography, June 2015

“Counties with no facility in 2014 but no change in distance to a facility between 2012 and 2014 had a 1.3% (95% CI, −1.5% to 4.0%) decline in abortions. When the change in distance was 100 miles or more, the number of abortions decreased 50.3% (95% CI, 48.0% to 52.7%).” Change in Distance to Nearest Facility and Abortion in Texas, 2012 to 2014 Journal of the American Medical Association, January 2017

“Increases in distance have significant effects for women initially living within 200 miles of a clinic. The largest effect is for those nearest to clinics for whom a 25-mile increase reduces abortion 10%.” How Far is Too Far? New Evidence on Abortion Clinic Closures, Access, and Abortions National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2017

“This law caused an increase in viewing rates and a statistically significant but small increase in continuing pregnancy rates.” Evaluating the impact of a mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound viewing law: A mixed methods study PLoS One July 2017

“We estimate that over the past 25 years, parental involvement laws have resulted in half a million additional teen births.” Did Parental Involvement Laws Grow Teeth? The Effects of State Restrictions on Minors’ Access to Abortion, Institute for the Study of Labor, August 31, 2017 (See the SPL blog post about this specific paper here.)

“Trends in sexual behavior suggest that young women’s increased access to the birth control pill fueled the sexual revolution, but neither these trends nor difference-in-difference estimates support the view that this also led to substantial changes in family formation. Rather, the estimates robustly suggest that it was liberalized access to abortion that allowed large numbers of women to delay marriage and motherhood.” The Power of Abortion Policy: Reexamining the Effects of Young Women’s Access to Reproductive Control, Journal of Political Economy, November 2017

“Participants were asked if they had considered abortion for this pregnancy and, if so, reasons they did not obtain one…more participants who had considered abortion in Louisiana than Maryland reported a policy-related reason (primarily lack of funding for the abortion) as a reason (22% Louisiana, 2% Maryland, p < 0.001).” Consideration of and Reasons for Not Obtaining Abortion Among Women Entering Prenatal Care in Southern Louisiana and Baltimore, Maryland, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, October 2018

“Existing estimates suggest 10% of Louisiana pregnancies end in abortion. If Medicaid covered abortion, this would increase to 14%.” Estimating the proportion of Medicaid-eligible pregnant women in Louisiana who do not get abortions when Medicaid does not cover abortion BMC Women’s Health, June 2019

“Greater exposure to ARs [abortion restrictions] was associated with increased risk of UIB [unintended birth].” Implications of Restrictive Abortion Laws on Unintended Births in the U.S.: A Cross-Sectional Multilevel Analysis APHA’s 2019 Annual Meeting and Expo, November 2019

“We examine characteristics and experiences of women who considered, but did not have, an abortion for this pregnancy….Interviewees who considered abortion and were subject to multiple restrictions on abortion identified material and instrumental impacts of policies that, collectively, contributed to them not having an abortion.” Complex situations: Economic insecurity, mental health, and substance use among pregnant women who consider – but do not have – abortions PLOS ONE January 2020

Further reading:

More evidence that abortion restrictions decrease abortion rates.

As a follow up to our previous post (Pro-life laws stop abortions. Here’s the evidence.) here in chronological order are more studies suggesting that abortion restrictions do decrease abortion—and not just legal abortion, but abortion in general. Note how many of the studies focus on how abortion policy affects birth rates rather than only the abortion rate itself.

“If all states observed the Hyde Amendment restrictions, many thousands of Medicaid-eligible women who would have obtained abortions under the 1977 funding policy would not receive them.” The impact of restricting Medicaid financing for abortion. Family Planning Perspectives, June 1980

“Analysis of statewide data from the three States indicated that following restrictions on State funding of abortions, the proportion of reported pregnancies resulting in births, rather than in abortions, increased in all three States.” Trends in rates of live births and abortions following state restrictions on public funding of abortion. Public Health Reports, December 1990

“The data show that 13% fewer had abortions in August through December than would have been expected on the basis of the number who had abortions in January through July.” The Effects of Mandatory Delay Laws on Abortion Patients and Providers, Family Planning Perspectives, October 1994

“A maximal estimate suggests that 22 percent of the abortions among low-income women that are publicly funded do not take place after funding is eliminated.” State Abortion Rates: The Impact of Policies, Providers, Politics, Demographics, and Economic Environment, Journal of Health Economics, October 1996.

“Access variables, including the restrictiveness of state laws regulating abortion, state funding of abortions for poor women and the availability of hospital abortions, affect abortion rates directly.” The role of access in explaining state abortion rates, Social Science & Medicine, April 1997

“The incidence of abortion is found to be lower in states where access to providers is reduced and state policies are restrictive.” The effects of economic conditions and access to reproductive health services on state abortion rates and birthrates. Family Planning Perspectives, April 1997

“The decline in geographic access to abortion providers during the 1980s accounted for a small but significant portion of the rise in the percentage of women heading families.” State abortion policy, geographic access to abortion providers and changing family formation. Family Planning Perspectives. December 1998.

“States legalizing abortion experienced a 4% decline in fertility relative to states where the legal status of abortion was unchanged.” Roe v. Wade and American fertility, American Journal of Public Health, February 1999

“The Texas parental notification law was associated with a decline in abortion rates among minors from 15 to 17 years of age.” Changes in Abortions and Births and the Texas Parental Notification Law, The New England Journal of Medicine, March 2006

“Our results indicate that much of the reduction in fertility at the time abortion was legalized was permanent in that women did not have more subsequent births as a result.” Abortion Legalization and Lifecycle Fertility, The Journal of Human Resources, 2007

“The empirical results find that increases in the price of an abortion and the enforcement of a Parental Involvement Law decrease the number of infants available for adoption in a state. States that do not fund Medicaid abortions do not have higher rates of infant relinquishment.” The effect of abortion costs on adoption in the USA, International Journal of Social Economics, 2008

“Overall, the results show that laws that increased minors’ access to abortion in the 1960s and 1970s had a larger impact on minors’ birthrates than laws that increased oral contraceptive access.” Fertility Effects of Abortion and Birth Control Pill Access for Minors, Demography, November 2008

“Approximately one-fourth of women who would have Medicaid-funded abortions instead give birth when this funding is unavailable.” Restrictions on Medicaid Funding for Abortions: A Literature Review, Guttmacher Institute, June 2009

“Robustness tests supported the association between access to abortion and decreased birthrates, while the relationship between access to the pill and birthrates received less support.” Abortion or Pill Access Is Associated with Lower Birthrates Among Minors, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, March 2009

“Minors in states with mandatory waiting periods were more than two times as likely to report an unintended birth.” How Are Restrictive Abortion Statutes Associated With Unintended Teen Birth? Journal of Adolescent Health, August 2010

“A series of regressions on a comprehensive time series cross-sectional data set provides evidence that several types of state-level anti-abortion legislation result in statistically significant declines in both the abortion rate and the abortion ratio.” Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, March 2011

“[If Roe v. Wade were overturned] abortion rates would fall by 14.9 percent nationally, resulting in at most, 178,800 additional births or 4.2 percent of the U.S. total in 2008. A ban in 17 states would result in a 6.0 percent decline in abortions and at most, 1.7 percent rise in births.” Back to the Future? Abortion Before & After Roe, National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2012

“The empirical results add to the substantial body of peer-reviewed research which finds that public funding restrictions, parental involvement laws, and properly designed informed consent laws all reduce the incidence of abortion.” Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era – A Reassessment, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, July 2014

“We estimated that each year more than 4000 US women are denied an abortion because of facility gestational limits and must carry unwanted pregnancies to term.” Denial of Abortion Because of Provider Gestational Age Limits in the United States American Public Health Association August 2014

“I estimate an increase in the birthrate of 4% to 12% when abortion is restricted. In the absence of anti-abortion laws, fertility would have been 5% to 12% lower in the early twentieth century.” The Effect of Anti-Abortion Legislation on Nineteenth Century Fertility, Demography, June 2015

“Counties with no facility in 2014 but no change in distance to a facility between 2012 and 2014 had a 1.3% (95% CI, −1.5% to 4.0%) decline in abortions. When the change in distance was 100 miles or more, the number of abortions decreased 50.3% (95% CI, 48.0% to 52.7%).” Change in Distance to Nearest Facility and Abortion in Texas, 2012 to 2014 Journal of the American Medical Association, January 2017

“Increases in distance have significant effects for women initially living within 200 miles of a clinic. The largest effect is for those nearest to clinics for whom a 25-mile increase reduces abortion 10%.” How Far is Too Far? New Evidence on Abortion Clinic Closures, Access, and Abortions National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2017

“This law caused an increase in viewing rates and a statistically significant but small increase in continuing pregnancy rates.” Evaluating the impact of a mandatory pre-abortion ultrasound viewing law: A mixed methods study PLoS One July 2017

“We estimate that over the past 25 years, parental involvement laws have resulted in half a million additional teen births.” Did Parental Involvement Laws Grow Teeth? The Effects of State Restrictions on Minors’ Access to Abortion, Institute for the Study of Labor, August 31, 2017 (See the SPL blog post about this specific paper here.)

“Trends in sexual behavior suggest that young women’s increased access to the birth control pill fueled the sexual revolution, but neither these trends nor difference-in-difference estimates support the view that this also led to substantial changes in family formation. Rather, the estimates robustly suggest that it was liberalized access to abortion that allowed large numbers of women to delay marriage and motherhood.” The Power of Abortion Policy: Reexamining the Effects of Young Women’s Access to Reproductive Control, Journal of Political Economy, November 2017

“Participants were asked if they had considered abortion for this pregnancy and, if so, reasons they did not obtain one…more participants who had considered abortion in Louisiana than Maryland reported a policy-related reason (primarily lack of funding for the abortion) as a reason (22% Louisiana, 2% Maryland, p < 0.001).” Consideration of and Reasons for Not Obtaining Abortion Among Women Entering Prenatal Care in Southern Louisiana and Baltimore, Maryland, Sexuality Research and Social Policy, October 2018

“Existing estimates suggest 10% of Louisiana pregnancies end in abortion. If Medicaid covered abortion, this would increase to 14%.” Estimating the proportion of Medicaid-eligible pregnant women in Louisiana who do not get abortions when Medicaid does not cover abortion BMC Women’s Health, June 2019

“Greater exposure to ARs [abortion restrictions] was associated with increased risk of UIB [unintended birth].” Implications of Restrictive Abortion Laws on Unintended Births in the U.S.: A Cross-Sectional Multilevel Analysis APHA’s 2019 Annual Meeting and Expo, November 2019

“We examine characteristics and experiences of women who considered, but did not have, an abortion for this pregnancy….Interviewees who considered abortion and were subject to multiple restrictions on abortion identified material and instrumental impacts of policies that, collectively, contributed to them not having an abortion.” Complex situations: Economic insecurity, mental health, and substance use among pregnant women who consider – but do not have – abortions PLOS ONE January 2020

Further reading:

Pro-life laws prevent abortion primarily by preventing unplanned pregnancy.

Today’s guest post is by Conner Alford.

Women and their partners are generally forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior.

Within
our society’s broader debate on abortion, two particular pro-choice arguments
have occupied a great deal of attention among political activists and leaders
alike. The first and stronger of these arguments postulates that legal
restrictions make abortion more dangerous but that they do not make it any less
common. The underlying logic here is that pro-life policies simply replace safe,
legal terminations with an equal number of dangerous, illegal and self-induced
or ‘back-alley’ abortions (AGI 1999, 2009). In other words, if a woman is
pregnant and does not want to be, she will not consider the legality of her
actions or the risks to her own health when deciding whether or not to abort.
Any woman willing to get a safe, legal abortion is also willing to get an
unsafe, illegal one. When the former is harder to obtain, she will trade it in
for the latter. When the latter is no longer necessary because laws have been
liberalized, she will trade it for the former. This is the argument articulated
by the Alan Guttmacher Institute[1] (AGI) and its affiliated researchers
(Tietze 1973; Juarez et al 2005; Sedgh et al 2007b; Singh et al 2010).
The
second argument makes a somewhat contradictory claim. According to this
narrative, pro-life policies do in fact mitigate abortions. However, they only
do so by replacing those abortions with unwanted births. Women trade abortions
for babies. As a result, the story goes, these undesired offspring either wind
up in state custody or eventually wash out to become criminals (Levitt and
Donahue 2001). Either way, the conclusion that we are supposed to draw is that
pro-life policies are generally ill-advised. However, both of these arguments
are deeply inconsistent with the empirical record and based on a fundamental
misconception about the primary way in which abortion laws actually work and
operate.
First,
studies have shown that while legal restrictions on abortion do reduce the rate
at which it occurs, they do not necessarily
result in an increase in the birth rate (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et
al. 1997). Second, the claim that pro-life policies simply lead to an increase
in maternal deaths by driving pregnant women to seek unsafe abortions is
directly challenged by the empirical record. The lowest maternal mortality
rates (MMR) in Europe, for example, occur in Poland, Malta and Ireland—all of
which have extremely restrictive policies (Mundial 2010; Hogan et al. 2010).
Further, a plethora of systematic analyses examining countries from around the
world continuously challenge the idea that legal restrictions on abortion
increase MMRs or hospitalizations.[2]  This, then, undermines a key assumption in the
AGI narrative about illegal abortions. Third, it is important to note that
within the academic community the debate is, generally speaking, no longer
about whether legal restrictions
reduce abortions so much as how they
manage to do so. That pro-life policies mitigate abortion is a point that has
been repeatedly illustrated by literally dozens of independent, peer-reviewed
studies over the course of several decades.[3]
There
has, however, been some disagreement about the exact causal mechanism
responsible for this relationship. Herein we find the chief problem with the
two perspectives introduced at the beginning of this essay. Not only are their
key assertions inconsistent with the empirical record, their entire arguments
are fundamentally oblivious to recent academic insights on how abortion laws
actually operate. Traditionally, scholars have tended to assume that such
policies function to minimize abortions by acting on the posterior “…decision
of a woman who is pregnant not to have the child” (Medoff 1988, p. 354). In
other words, the law was presumed to affect a woman’s behavior only after she had already become
pregnant. The AGI and other pro-choice advocates have adopted this outdated
presupposition.
Since
the mid 1990s, however, the academic understanding has evolved in light of new
evidence. A substantial number of independent, peer reviewed studies have
consistently shown that legal restrictions on abortion work primarily by reducing the rate at which
unplanned pregnancies occur in the first place (Kane and Staiger
1996) and only secondarily by
influencing the behaviors of women who are already pregnant (Levine 2004a)! In
other words, pro-life policies address both the symptom and the cause! To be
more specific, research has shown that women and their partners are generally
forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior. They do not wait
until after a pregnancy has already occurred before deciding whether they
should take steps to preempt parenthood. As a result, pro-life policies actually
help to reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate by incentivizing couples to take
additional precautions prior to a
potential pregnancy rather than waiting to obtain an abortion after the
pregnancy has already occurred. Conversely, the opposite is also true. When
abortion is readily accessible, this very availability reduces the incentive to
avoid becoming pregnant by offering a sort of ‘insurance policy,’ should you or
your partner happen to do so. For example, studies have persistently shown that
more permissive policies are causally connected to an increase in unprotected
sex whereas more restrictive policies lead to an increase in contraceptive
usage (Levine 2004b; Medoff 2008a, b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011, 2014, 2015).
There is also some evidence to indicate that legally restricting abortion leads
to a change in the overall amount of sexual activity (Alford 2016).
Of
course, many readers are likely to find this logic somewhat counterintuitive or
even offensive. Despite this, it has been overwhelmingly
supported by the empirical record (Kane and Staiger 1996; Levine et al. 1996;
Levine 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004; Levine and Staiger 2004; McNabb 2007; Medoff 2008a,
b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011). It also helps to explain the previously puzzling
findings of several studies which suggested 
that abortion laws were able to reduce the number of abortions without
an increase in births (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et al. 1997) or harming
maternal health outcomes (see footnote 3). Furthermore, it is consistent with
previous findings that the legalization of abortion is associated with an
increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases whereas pro-life
policies have the opposite impact (Kick and Stratmann 2003; Klick and Neelsen
2012). Studies examining the impact of abortion policies on the number of
infants available for adoption have, similarly, supported the hypothesis (Gennetian
1999; Bitler and Zavodny 2002; Medoff 2008b).
In
conclusion then, it is important to understand that the primary interaction between pro-life policies and individual
fertility decisions happens before a
potential pregnancy. Men and women are generally rational, free and forward-thinking when it comes to their sex lives. They consider the risks and
potential costs of an unwanted pregnancy before making decisions about whether
to engage in sexual activity or to utilize contraception. When those costs are
subverted by liberalized abortion laws, this provides a sort of ‘insurance
policy,’ which encourages uninhibited sexual activity. When those costs are
reinforced by pro-life policies, however, the opposite occurs. Contraceptive
usage goes up and unplanned pregnancies go down. As a result, legal limitations
on abortion are capable of reducing abortion rates without actually impacting
the overall number of births. Where pro-life policies do lead to an increase in
births, this change is secondary and relatively modest as compared to the
decline in unplanned pregnancy. As a result of this, restrictions on abortion are
also able to operate without a concomitant risk of unsafe abortions. After all,
you cannot illegally terminate a pregnancy that never occurred. This helps to
explain why there does not seem to be any positive relationship between
legalized abortion and maternal health outcomes.[4] The arguments introduced
at the opening of this essay must, therefore, be dismissed in light of new
academic evidence and empirical data. The science simply does not support them.
It does, however, indicate that pro-life laws do not merely address abortion as a symptom but that they attack the
underlying cause of abortion—unplanned pregnancy—at its source.
 
Bibliography
Alan Guttmacher
Institute (AGI). 1999. “Sharing Responsibility: Women, Society & Abortion
Worldwide.” New York.
__________. 2009.
Abortion
Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress
.” New York.
Alford, Conner.
2016. “The Economics of Abortion: A Comparative Analysis of Mexico and the
United States.” Proquest
Dissertations
. Available at: https://search.proquest.com/openview/5e138d6c2e46744301e5f1706efbfa4c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
Bitler, Marianne
and Madeline. Zavodny. 2002. “Did Abortion Legalization Reduce the Number
of Unwanted Children? Evidence from Adoptions.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 34(1) 25-33.
Donohue III, John
J and Steven D. Levitt. “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime.” The Quarterly
Journal of Economics
. 116(2): 379-420.
Felkey, Amanda J.
and Lybecker, Kristina M. 2011. “Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws
Matter?” International Journal of
Business and Social Science
. 2(16): 1-12.
_____. 2014.
“Utilization of Oral Contraception: The Impact of Direct and Indirect
Restrictions on Access to Abortion.” The
Social Science Journal
.  51: 44-56.
 _____. 2015. “The Role of Restrictive Abortion
Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use.” Clinics in Mother and Child Health. 12(4):
1-10.
Gennetian, Lisa A.
1999.  “The Supply of Infants
relinquished for Adoption: Did Access to Abortion Make a Difference?” Economic Inquiry. 37(3): 412-431.
Gober, Patricia.
1994. “Why Abortion Rates Vary: A Geographical Examination of the Supply
of and Demand for Abortion Services in the United States in 1988.” Annals of the Association of American
Geographers
. 84: 230-250.
Guldi, Melanie.
2008. “Fertility Effects of Abortion and Birth Control Pill Access for
Minors.” Demography. 45(4):
817-827.
Haas-Wilson,
Deborah. 1993.”The Economic Impact of State Restrictions on Abortion:
Parental Consent and Notification Laws and Medicaid Funding Restrictions.”
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
12(3): 498-511.
Hansen, Susan B.
1980. “State Implementation of Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion Rates since
Roe v. Wade.” The Journal of Politics.
42: pp. 372-395.
Hogan MC, Foreman
KJ, Naghavi M, Ahn SY, Wang M, et al. 2010. “Maternal mortality for 181
countries, 1980-2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium
Development Goal 5.” Lancet
375(9726): 1609–1623.
Kane, Thomas J.
and Douglas Staiger. 1996. “Teen Motherhood and Abortion Access.” The
Quarterly Journal of Economics.
111(2): 467-506
Koch, Elard Miguel
Bravo, Sebastián Gatica, Juan F. Stecher, Paula Aracena, Sergio Valenzuela,
IvonneAhlers. 2012A. “Sobrestimacióndel Aborto Inducido en Colombia y otros Países
Latino Americanos. [Overestimation of induced abortion in Colombia and other
Latin American countries].” Ginecol
Obstet Mex
. 80(5): 360-372.
Koch, Elard, John
Thorp, Miguel Bravo, Sebastian Gatica, Camila X. Romero, Hernan Aguilera,
IvonneAhlers. 2012b. “Women’s Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities,
Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957
to 2007.” PLoS One. 7(5): 1-16.
Koch, Elard,
Calhoun, Paula. Aracena, Sebastian Gatica, and Miguel Bravo. 2014.
“Women’s education level, contraceptive use and maternal mortality
estimates.” Public Health,
128(4): 384-7.
Koch, Elard,
Monique Chireau, Fernando Pliego, Joseph Stanford, Sebastián Haddad, Byron
Calhoun, Paula Aracena, Miguel Bravo, SebastiánGatica, and John Thorp. 2015.
“Abortion legislation, maternal healthcare, fertility, female literacy,
sanitation, violence against women, and maternal deaths: a natural experiment
in 32 Mexican states.”BMJ. 5(2):
e006013–e006013.
Levine, Phillip
B., Amy B. Trainor, and David J. Zimmerman. 1996. “The effect of Medicaid
abortion funding restrictions on abortions, pregnancies and births.” Journal of 
Health Economics
. 15: 555-578.
Levine Phillip B.,
Douglas Staiger, Thomas J. Kane and David J. Zimmerman. 1999. “Roe v. Wade
and American Fertility.” American
Journal of Public Health
. 89(2): pp. 199-203.
Levine, Phillip B.
2002. The Impact of Social Policy and Economic Activity throughout the
Fertility Decision Tree.” in Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic
Analysis
. E.D. Jonathan Gruber. National Bureau of Economic Research, pp.
167-218.
 _____. 2003. “Parental Involvement Laws and
Fertility Behavior.” Journal of Health
Economics
. 22(5): 861–878
_____. 2004a.
“Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility.” Society, 41(4): 79-85.
_____. 2004b. Sex
and Consequences: Abortion, Public Policy, and the Economics of Fertility
.
Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
 Levine, Phillip B. and Douglas Staiger. 2004.
“Abortion Policy and Fertility Outcomes: The Eastern European
Experience.” Journal of Law and
Economics
. XLVII (April): 223-243.
Matthews, Stephens
David Ribar and Mark Wilhelm. 1997.”The Effects of Economic Conditions and
Access to Reproductive Health Services On State Abortion rates and
Birthrates.” Family Planning
Perspectives
. 29(2): 52-60.
McNabb, Leland.
2007. “Public Policies and Private Decisions: An Analysis of the Effects of
Abortion Restrictions on Minors’ Contraceptive Behavior.” Available at: https://econ.duke.edu/uploads/assets/dje/2006/McNabb.pdf
Medoff, H.
Marshall. 1988. “An Economic Analysis of the Demand for Abortion.” Economic Inquiry. 26: 353-359.
 _____. 2008a. “Abortion costs, sexual
behavior, and pregnancy rates.” The
Social Science Journal
. 45: 156-172
. _____. 2008b.
“The Effect of Abortion Costs on Adoption.”
International Journal of Social Economics
. 35(3): 188-201.
Mundial, Banco.
2010. “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2008.” Available at: http://www.bvcooperacion.pe/biblioteca/bitstream/123456789/7523/1/BVCI0006645.pdf
New, Michael.
2004. “Analyzing the Effects of State Legislation on the Incidence of
Abortion During the 1990s.”
_____. 2007.
“Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among
Minors.”
_____. 2011.
“Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post Casey
Era”. State Politics & Policy
Quarterly
. 11: pp. 28-47.
_____. 2014.
“Analyzing the Impact of U.S. Antiabortion Legislation in the Post-Casey Era A
Reassessment.” State Politics &
Policy Quarterly
. 11: pp. 28-47.
Trussell, J., J.
Menken, B.L, Lindheimand B. Vaughan. 1980. “The impact of restricting Medicaid
financing for abortion.” Family Planning
Perspectives
12, 120-130.


[1] The AGI is a pro-choice lobbying
organization and the semi-official research division of Planned Parenthood. Its
statement of purpose is to promote the liberalization of worldwide abortion
laws.
[2] Similarly, in South and Central
America, Koch et al (2014) finds no relationship between the restrictiveness of
state policies on abortion in Mexico and maternal mortality, while a time
series analysis of Chile failed to show any relationship between historical
changes in abortion policy and either maternal mortality or abortion related
hospitalizations (Koch et al. 2012a). Systematic analyses in Eastern Europe and
studies examining the impact of legalized abortion in Mexico City also
undermine the AGI narrative (Levine and Staiger 2004; Klick and Neelsen 2012; Koch
et al 2012b).
[3] Hansen 1980; Medoff 1988, 2008a,
2008b; Haas-Wilson 1993; Gober 1994; New 2004, 2007, 2011a, b; Guildi 2008;
Koch et al. 2012a, b, 2014…the list goes on. 
[4] 
In fact, some research indicates the opposite: that more liberal
abortion laws may actually lead to an increase in maternal mortality and
morbidity (Alford 2016). Although these findings have yet to be fully explained,
one possibility is that women who obtain abortions are able to become pregnant
again more quickly and/or are more likely to return to former levels of sexual
activity. As a result, this leads to an increase in the overall number of
pregnancies a woman experiences and therefore her overall risk of experiencing
a potentially life threatening complication. This may also help to explain why
countries with more restrictive abortion policies in both Latin America and
Europe tend to have maternal mortality rates that are lower than the regional average
(see above) and why the abortion mortality ratio decrease by almost 96%
subsequent to an abortion ban in Chile (Koch 2013).

Pro-life laws prevent abortion primarily by preventing unplanned pregnancy.

Today’s guest post is by Conner Alford.

Women and their partners are generally forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior.

Within
our society’s broader debate on abortion, two particular pro-choice arguments
have occupied a great deal of attention among political activists and leaders
alike. The first and stronger of these arguments postulates that legal
restrictions make abortion more dangerous but that they do not make it any less
common. The underlying logic here is that pro-life policies simply replace safe,
legal terminations with an equal number of dangerous, illegal and self-induced
or ‘back-alley’ abortions (AGI 1999, 2009). In other words, if a woman is
pregnant and does not want to be, she will not consider the legality of her
actions or the risks to her own health when deciding whether or not to abort.
Any woman willing to get a safe, legal abortion is also willing to get an
unsafe, illegal one. When the former is harder to obtain, she will trade it in
for the latter. When the latter is no longer necessary because laws have been
liberalized, she will trade it for the former. This is the argument articulated
by the Alan Guttmacher Institute[1] (AGI) and its affiliated researchers
(Tietze 1973; Juarez et al 2005; Sedgh et al 2007b; Singh et al 2010).
The
second argument makes a somewhat contradictory claim. According to this
narrative, pro-life policies do in fact mitigate abortions. However, they only
do so by replacing those abortions with unwanted births. Women trade abortions
for babies. As a result, the story goes, these undesired offspring either wind
up in state custody or eventually wash out to become criminals (Levitt and
Donahue 2001). Either way, the conclusion that we are supposed to draw is that
pro-life policies are generally ill-advised. However, both of these arguments
are deeply inconsistent with the empirical record and based on a fundamental
misconception about the primary way in which abortion laws actually work and
operate.
First,
studies have shown that while legal restrictions on abortion do reduce the rate
at which it occurs, they do not necessarily
result in an increase in the birth rate (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et
al. 1997). Second, the claim that pro-life policies simply lead to an increase
in maternal deaths by driving pregnant women to seek unsafe abortions is
directly challenged by the empirical record. The lowest maternal mortality
rates (MMR) in Europe, for example, occur in Poland, Malta and Ireland—all of
which have extremely restrictive policies (Mundial 2010; Hogan et al. 2010).
Further, a plethora of systematic analyses examining countries from around the
world continuously challenge the idea that legal restrictions on abortion
increase MMRs or hospitalizations.[2]  This, then, undermines a key assumption in the
AGI narrative about illegal abortions. Third, it is important to note that
within the academic community the debate is, generally speaking, no longer
about whether legal restrictions
reduce abortions so much as how they
manage to do so. That pro-life policies mitigate abortion is a point that has
been repeatedly illustrated by literally dozens of independent, peer-reviewed
studies over the course of several decades.[3]
There
has, however, been some disagreement about the exact causal mechanism
responsible for this relationship. Herein we find the chief problem with the
two perspectives introduced at the beginning of this essay. Not only are their
key assertions inconsistent with the empirical record, their entire arguments
are fundamentally oblivious to recent academic insights on how abortion laws
actually operate. Traditionally, scholars have tended to assume that such
policies function to minimize abortions by acting on the posterior “…decision
of a woman who is pregnant not to have the child” (Medoff 1988, p. 354). In
other words, the law was presumed to affect a woman’s behavior only after she had already become
pregnant. The AGI and other pro-choice advocates have adopted this outdated
presupposition.
Since
the mid 1990s, however, the academic understanding has evolved in light of new
evidence. A substantial number of independent, peer reviewed studies have
consistently shown that legal restrictions on abortion work primarily by reducing the rate at which
unplanned pregnancies occur in the first place (Kane and Staiger
1996) and only secondarily by
influencing the behaviors of women who are already pregnant (Levine 2004a)! In
other words, pro-life policies address both the symptom and the cause! To be
more specific, research has shown that women and their partners are generally
forward-thinking and rational in their fertility behavior. They do not wait
until after a pregnancy has already occurred before deciding whether they
should take steps to preempt parenthood. As a result, pro-life policies actually
help to reduce the unplanned pregnancy rate by incentivizing couples to take
additional precautions prior to a
potential pregnancy rather than waiting to obtain an abortion after the
pregnancy has already occurred. Conversely, the opposite is also true. When
abortion is readily accessible, this very availability reduces the incentive to
avoid becoming pregnant by offering a sort of ‘insurance policy,’ should you or
your partner happen to do so. For example, studies have persistently shown that
more permissive policies are causally connected to an increase in unprotected
sex whereas more restrictive policies lead to an increase in contraceptive
usage (Levine 2004b; Medoff 2008a, b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011, 2014, 2015).
There is also some evidence to indicate that legally restricting abortion leads
to a change in the overall amount of sexual activity (Alford 2016).
Of
course, many readers are likely to find this logic somewhat counterintuitive or
even offensive. Despite this, it has been overwhelmingly
supported by the empirical record (Kane and Staiger 1996; Levine et al. 1996;
Levine 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004; Levine and Staiger 2004; McNabb 2007; Medoff 2008a,
b; Felkey and Lybecker 2011). It also helps to explain the previously puzzling
findings of several studies which suggested 
that abortion laws were able to reduce the number of abortions without
an increase in births (Trussel et al. 1980; Matthews et al. 1997) or harming
maternal health outcomes (see footnote 3). Furthermore, it is consistent with
previous findings that the legalization of abortion is associated with an
increase in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases whereas pro-life
policies have the opposite impact (Kick and Stratmann 2003; Klick and Neelsen
2012). Studies examining the impact of abortion policies on the number of
infants available for adoption have, similarly, supported the hypothesis (Gennetian
1999; Bitler and Zavodny 2002; Medoff 2008b).
In
conclusion then, it is important to understand that the primary interaction between pro-life policies and individual
fertility decisions happens before a
potential pregnancy. Men and women are generally rational, free and forward-thinking when it comes to their sex lives. They consider the risks and
potential costs of an unwanted pregnancy before making decisions about whether
to engage in sexual activity or to utilize contraception. When those costs are
subverted by liberalized abortion laws, this provides a sort of ‘insurance
policy,’ which encourages uninhibited sexual activity. When those costs are
reinforced by pro-life policies, however, the opposite occurs. Contraceptive
usage goes up and unplanned pregnancies go down. As a result, legal limitations
on abortion are capable of reducing abortion rates without actually impacting
the overall number of births. Where pro-life policies do lead to an increase in
births, this change is secondary and relatively modest as compared to the
decline in unplanned pregnancy. As a result of this, restrictions on abortion are
also able to operate without a concomitant risk of unsafe abortions. After all,
you cannot illegally terminate a pregnancy that never occurred. This helps to
explain why there does not seem to be any positive relationship between
legalized abortion and maternal health outcomes.[4] The arguments introduced
at the opening of this essay must, therefore, be dismissed in light of new
academic evidence and empirical data. The science simply does not support them.
It does, however, indicate that pro-life laws do not merely address abortion as a symptom but that they attack the
underlying cause of abortion—unplanned pregnancy—at its source.
 
Bibliography
Alan Guttmacher
Institute (AGI). 1999. “Sharing Responsibility: Women, Society & Abortion
Worldwide.” New York.
__________. 2009.
Abortion
Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress
.” New York.
Alford, Conner.
2016. “The Economics of Abortion: A Comparative Analysis of Mexico and the
United States.” Proquest
Dissertations
. Available at: https://search.proquest.com/openview/5e138d6c2e46744301e5f1706efbfa4c/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=18750&diss=y
Bitler, Marianne
and Madeline. Zavodny. 2002. “Did Abortion Legalization Reduce the Number
of Unwanted Children? Evidence from Adoptions.” Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. 34(1) 25-33.
Donohue III, John
J and Steven D. Levitt. “The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime.” The Quarterly
Journal of Economics
. 116(2): 379-420.
Felkey, Amanda J.
and Lybecker, Kristina M. 2011. “Variation in Pill Use: Do Abortion Laws
Matter?” International Journal of
Business and Social Science
. 2(16): 1-12.
_____. 2014.
“Utilization of Oral Contraception: The Impact of Direct and Indirect
Restrictions on Access to Abortion.” The
Social Science Journal
.  51: 44-56.
 _____. 2015. “The Role of Restrictive Abortion
Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use.” Clinics in Mother and Child Health. 12(4):
1-10.
Gennetian, Lisa A.
1999.  “The Supply of Infants
relinquished for Adoption: Did Access to Abortion Make a Difference?” Economic Inquiry. 37(3): 412-431.
Gober, Patricia.
1994. “Why Abortion Rates Vary: A Geographical Examination of the Supply
of and Demand for Abortion Services in the United States in 1988.” Annals of the Association of American
Geographers
. 84: 230-250.
Guldi, Melanie.
2008. “Fertility Effects of Abortion and Birth Control Pill Access for
Minors.” Demography. 45(4):
817-827.
Haas-Wilson,
Deborah. 1993.”The Economic Impact of State Restrictions on Abortion:
Parental Consent and Notification Laws and Medicaid Funding Restrictions.”
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
12(3): 498-511.
Hansen, Susan B.
1980. “State Implementation of Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion Rates since
Roe v. Wade.” The Journal of Politics.
42: pp. 372-395.
Hogan MC, Foreman
KJ, Naghavi M, Ahn SY, Wang M, et al. 2010. “Maternal mortality for 181
countries, 1980-2008: a systematic analysis of progress towards Millennium
Development Goal 5.” Lancet
375(9726): 1609–1623.
Kane, Thomas J.
and Douglas Staiger. 1996. “Teen Motherhood and Abortion Access.” The
Quarterly Journal of Economics.
111(2): 467-506
Koch, Elard Miguel
Bravo, Sebastián Gatica, Juan F. Stecher, Paula Aracena, Sergio Valenzuela,
IvonneAhlers. 2012A. “Sobrestimacióndel Aborto Inducido en Colombia y otros Países
Latino Americanos. [Overestimation of induced abortion in Colombia and other
Latin American countries].” Ginecol
Obstet Mex
. 80(5): 360-372.
Koch, Elard, John
Thorp, Miguel Bravo, Sebastian Gatica, Camila X. Romero, Hernan Aguilera,
IvonneAhlers. 2012b. “Women’s Education Level, Maternal Health Facilities,
Abortion Legislation and Maternal Deaths: A Natural Experiment in Chile from 1957
to 2007.” PLoS One. 7(5): 1-16.
Koch, Elard,
Calhoun, Paula. Aracena, Sebastian Gatica, and Miguel Bravo. 2014.
“Women’s education level, contraceptive use and maternal mortality
estimates.” Public Health,
128(4): 384-7.
Koch, Elard,
Monique Chireau, Fernando Pliego, Joseph Stanford, Sebastián Haddad, Byron
Calhoun, Paula Aracena, Miguel Bravo, SebastiánGatica, and John Thorp. 2015.
“Abortion legislation, maternal healthcare, fertility, female literacy,
sanitation, violence against women, and maternal deaths: a natural experiment
in 32 Mexican states.”BMJ. 5(2):
e006013–e006013.
Levine, Phillip
B., Amy B. Trainor, and David J. Zimmerman. 1996. “The effect of Medicaid
abortion funding restrictions on abortions, pregnancies and births.” Journal of 
Health Economics
. 15: 555-578.
Levine Phillip B.,
Douglas Staiger, Thomas J. Kane and David J. Zimmerman. 1999. “Roe v. Wade
and American Fertility.” American
Journal of Public Health
. 89(2): pp. 199-203.
Levine, Phillip B.
2002. The Impact of Social Policy and Economic Activity throughout the
Fertility Decision Tree.” in Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic
Analysis
. E.D. Jonathan Gruber. National Bureau of Economic Research, pp.
167-218.
 _____. 2003. “Parental Involvement Laws and
Fertility Behavior.” Journal of Health
Economics
. 22(5): 861–878
_____. 2004a.
“Abortion Policy and the Economics of Fertility.” Society, 41(4): 79-85.
_____. 2004b. Sex
and Consequences: Abortion, Public Policy, and the Economics of Fertility
.
Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.
 Levine, Phillip B. and Douglas Staiger. 2004.
“Abortion Policy and Fertility Outcomes: The Eastern European
Experience.” Journal of Law and
Economics
. XLVII (April): 223-243.
Matthews, Stephens
David Ribar and Mark Wilhelm. 1997.”The Effects of Economic Conditions and
Access to Reproductive Health Services On State Abortion rates and
Birthrates.” Family Planning
Perspectives
. 29(2): 52-60.
McNabb, Leland.
2007. “Public Policies and Private Decisions: An Analysis of the Effects of
Abortion Restrictions on Minors’ Contraceptive Behavior.” Available at: https://econ.duke.edu/uploads/assets/dje/2006/McNabb.pdf
Medoff, H.
Marshall. 1988. “An Economic Analysis of the Demand for Abortion.” Economic Inquiry. 26: 353-359.
 _____. 2008a. “Abortion costs, sexual
behavior, and pregnancy rates.” The
Social Science Journal
. 45: 156-172
. _____. 2008b.
“The Effect of Abortion Costs on Adoption.”
International Journal of Social Economics
. 35(3): 188-201.
Mundial, Banco.
2010. “Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 to 2008.” Available at: http://www.bvcooperacion.pe/biblioteca/bitstream/123456789/7523/1/BVCI0006645.pdf
New, Michael.
2004. “Analyzing the Effects of State Legislation on the Incidence of
Abortion During the 1990s.”
_____. 2007.
“Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among
Minors.”
_____. 2011.
“Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post Casey
Era”. State Politics & Policy
Quarterly
. 11: pp. 28-47.
_____. 2014.
“Analyzing the Impact of U.S. Antiabortion Legislation in the Post-Casey Era A
Reassessment.” State Politics &
Policy Quarterly
. 11: pp. 28-47.
Trussell, J., J.
Menken, B.L, Lindheimand B. Vaughan. 1980. “The impact of restricting Medicaid
financing for abortion.” Family Planning
Perspectives
12, 120-130.


[1] The AGI is a pro-choice lobbying
organization and the semi-official research division of Planned Parenthood. Its
statement of purpose is to promote the liberalization of worldwide abortion
laws.
[2] Similarly, in South and Central
America, Koch et al (2014) finds no relationship between the restrictiveness of
state policies on abortion in Mexico and maternal mortality, while a time
series analysis of Chile failed to show any relationship between historical
changes in abortion policy and either maternal mortality or abortion related
hospitalizations (Koch et al. 2012a). Systematic analyses in Eastern Europe and
studies examining the impact of legalized abortion in Mexico City also
undermine the AGI narrative (Levine and Staiger 2004; Klick and Neelsen 2012; Koch
et al 2012b).
[3] Hansen 1980; Medoff 1988, 2008a,
2008b; Haas-Wilson 1993; Gober 1994; New 2004, 2007, 2011a, b; Guildi 2008;
Koch et al. 2012a, b, 2014…the list goes on. 
[4] 
In fact, some research indicates the opposite: that more liberal
abortion laws may actually lead to an increase in maternal mortality and
morbidity (Alford 2016). Although these findings have yet to be fully explained,
one possibility is that women who obtain abortions are able to become pregnant
again more quickly and/or are more likely to return to former levels of sexual
activity. As a result, this leads to an increase in the overall number of
pregnancies a woman experiences and therefore her overall risk of experiencing
a potentially life threatening complication. This may also help to explain why
countries with more restrictive abortion policies in both Latin America and
Europe tend to have maternal mortality rates that are lower than the regional average
(see above) and why the abortion mortality ratio decrease by almost 96%
subsequent to an abortion ban in Chile (Koch 2013).

Behind Enemy Lines: Undercover at a NARAL training session

All over the country, student and activist pro-life groups
regularly meet to discuss the intimidating task of developing a sound messaging
program to effectively reach members of their communities. Which key words will
connect with women the most? How do we handle the most difficult questions with
the appropriate amount of care? Often overlooked in all this is that simultaneously,
as a foil to this work, abortion rights advocates are meeting in these very
same communities, discussing these very same issues of messaging. Just as
pro-lifers grapple with how to message about issues such as restricting
reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and abortion in the case of rape, conversely, abortion rights activists are laboring to present their views on
parental consent, late-term abortion, and public financing of abortions in the
most palatable terms to the general public. 
Out of a desire to better
understand our opponents’ viewpoints and be prepared for the types of messaging
young women at risk for abortion may be hearing, our Students for Life group
decided to secretly infiltrate a NARAL training session in California.
What we encountered there was a pro-choice movement that is both shrewd in its
marketing and emboldened in its goals.

Messaging Tactics                   
The messaging tactics seem to be emotionally aware and
politically savvy. The issue of abortion was highly shrouded in the language of
social justice. The “lived experiences of women” and “meeting women where they
are at” were highly emphasized. It seemed that the objective question of “the
morality of abortion” was countered with the subjective “lived experiences” of
women obtaining abortions—as if obtaining an abortion was a form of identity,
that could not be understood or questioned beyond the person experiencing it.
Euphemisms were also used abundantly. As the trainer noted, while many
Americans do not mind abortion being legal, a clear majority of Americans have
strong ethical qualms with abortion. As such, the word “choice” can lose its
power if many people view the choice as immoral. Therefore, incorporating more
universal terms such as “economic security” can be more effective. As pro-lifer
writer Jill Stanek has noted, “The pro-choice movement has been reduced to
euphemisms about euphemisms.”
In a moment of shocking honesty in a portion on
parental notification, the trainer noted that many parents do not feel that
their children should have rights to abortion, prioritizing their child’s
safety over their child’s personal privacy. She added that it’s important to
relay to the parents, that of course their
kid will come to them, but what about children who are more unfortunate and
don’t have anyone to trust? Never mind that they’re advocating for the right of
all children to circumvent their
parents; at least the parents they’re talking to feel good about their kids.
For someone willing to be so disingenuous with parents, she was strikingly
honest with us about these tactics.
Above: Pro-abortion signs with “access” messaging

Policy Goals

Another component that jumped out at us was how far the
conversation has shifted as the pro-choice has become more dissatisfied with
the status quo and more emboldened in their policy goals. Long gone are the
reverence for the trimester regime of Roe, the regulations provided for by
Casey, the consensus of Hyde and the cautious verbiage of the 90’s which sought
to make abortion “safe, legal and rare.” In their absence, “accessibility” has become the catch-all word. The NARAL spokeswoman made it
clear that this prioritization of accessibility is the main driver behind
2018’s SB 320 in California, and the 2016 Democratic party platform, explicitly
including the overturning of the Hyde Amendment. When directly asked about this
by one of our members, the spokeswoman said that assuming a Democratic victory in
2020, the overturning of Hyde will be a top legislative priority in 2021. She
also acknowledged that she never imagined a day when two national candidates
would both advocate overturning Hyde. How far we’ve come. It is clear to us,
that within the next 5 years it is highly likely that the battle over Hyde will
be the front lines in the abortion debate.
The Litmus Test
Being as the training was held at a county Democratic Party office, it was only natural that the infamous “litmus test”
question to arise. Ever since Tom Perez’s well-known snafu, Democrats have been
contentiously debating whether their big tent can tolerate the presence of
pro-lifers. It was here that the level of extremism was made evident. The NARAL
spokeswoman said that if they feel confident their candidate can maintain the Democrat
seat in question, then they would primary the only three Democrats that voted for the 20 week abortion ban. She also noted that NARAL endorsed Hillary over
Bernie. This is rather remarkable, given that they did not endorse Hillary in
2008; but Bernie, who has a 100 percent voting rating from NARAL and a 0 rating
from the National Right to Life, made the unpardonable sin of endorsing a
pro-life Democrat from Nebraska. Apparently it is not just pro-life Democrats who will not be tolerated by NARAL, but also stalwart pro-choicers who merely wish to
co-exist with pro-life Democrats.

Conclusion

Having discussed the abortion issue for over 10 years now, I felt
a strange connection with the people there. I could relate to their passion and
excitement about the issues being discussed. I myself have been in many similar
pro-life talks and have the same types of conversations they have with the
public week in and week out. It was interesting to think that these people have
devoted their lives to defending that which my moral intuition tells me is the
greatest moral wrong. In that moment, I realized perhaps they view me and my
friends as doing the same and being equally misguided. 
Although, I can say that the
evening did not end with moral ambiguity. As the training was wrapping up the
spokeswoman did a brief Q&A. Answering one question she tongue-in-cheek replied “We’re very live and let live here” and then belly-laughed saying, “Sorry,
I have a very dark sense of humor.” Dark indeed. 
At last: something we can agree
on.
[Today’s guest post is by Jeremy R.]

Behind Enemy Lines: Undercover at a NARAL training session

All over the country, student and activist pro-life groups
regularly meet to discuss the intimidating task of developing a sound messaging
program to effectively reach members of their communities. Which key words will
connect with women the most? How do we handle the most difficult questions with
the appropriate amount of care? Often overlooked in all this is that simultaneously,
as a foil to this work, abortion rights advocates are meeting in these very
same communities, discussing these very same issues of messaging. Just as
pro-lifers grapple with how to message about issues such as restricting
reproductive freedom, bodily autonomy, and abortion in the case of rape, conversely, abortion rights activists are laboring to present their views on
parental consent, late-term abortion, and public financing of abortions in the
most palatable terms to the general public. 
Out of a desire to better
understand our opponents’ viewpoints and be prepared for the types of messaging
young women at risk for abortion may be hearing, our Students for Life group
decided to secretly infiltrate a NARAL training session in California.
What we encountered there was a pro-choice movement that is both shrewd in its
marketing and emboldened in its goals.

Messaging Tactics                   
The messaging tactics seem to be emotionally aware and
politically savvy. The issue of abortion was highly shrouded in the language of
social justice. The “lived experiences of women” and “meeting women where they
are at” were highly emphasized. It seemed that the objective question of “the
morality of abortion” was countered with the subjective “lived experiences” of
women obtaining abortions—as if obtaining an abortion was a form of identity,
that could not be understood or questioned beyond the person experiencing it.
Euphemisms were also used abundantly. As the trainer noted, while many
Americans do not mind abortion being legal, a clear majority of Americans have
strong ethical qualms with abortion. As such, the word “choice” can lose its
power if many people view the choice as immoral. Therefore, incorporating more
universal terms such as “economic security” can be more effective. As pro-lifer
writer Jill Stanek has noted, “The pro-choice movement has been reduced to
euphemisms about euphemisms.”
In a moment of shocking honesty in a portion on
parental notification, the trainer noted that many parents do not feel that
their children should have rights to abortion, prioritizing their child’s
safety over their child’s personal privacy. She added that it’s important to
relay to the parents, that of course their
kid will come to them, but what about children who are more unfortunate and
don’t have anyone to trust? Never mind that they’re advocating for the right of
all children to circumvent their
parents; at least the parents they’re talking to feel good about their kids.
For someone willing to be so disingenuous with parents, she was strikingly
honest with us about these tactics.
Above: Pro-abortion signs with “access” messaging

Policy Goals

Another component that jumped out at us was how far the
conversation has shifted as the pro-choice has become more dissatisfied with
the status quo and more emboldened in their policy goals. Long gone are the
reverence for the trimester regime of Roe, the regulations provided for by
Casey, the consensus of Hyde and the cautious verbiage of the 90’s which sought
to make abortion “safe, legal and rare.” In their absence, “accessibility” has become the catch-all word. The NARAL spokeswoman made it
clear that this prioritization of accessibility is the main driver behind
2018’s SB 320 in California, and the 2016 Democratic party platform, explicitly
including the overturning of the Hyde Amendment. When directly asked about this
by one of our members, the spokeswoman said that assuming a Democratic victory in
2020, the overturning of Hyde will be a top legislative priority in 2021. She
also acknowledged that she never imagined a day when two national candidates
would both advocate overturning Hyde. How far we’ve come. It is clear to us,
that within the next 5 years it is highly likely that the battle over Hyde will
be the front lines in the abortion debate.
The Litmus Test
Being as the training was held at a county Democratic Party office, it was only natural that the infamous “litmus test”
question to arise. Ever since Tom Perez’s well-known snafu, Democrats have been
contentiously debating whether their big tent can tolerate the presence of
pro-lifers. It was here that the level of extremism was made evident. The NARAL
spokeswoman said that if they feel confident their candidate can maintain the Democrat
seat in question, then they would primary the only three Democrats that voted for the 20 week abortion ban. She also noted that NARAL endorsed Hillary over
Bernie. This is rather remarkable, given that they did not endorse Hillary in
2008; but Bernie, who has a 100 percent voting rating from NARAL and a 0 rating
from the National Right to Life, made the unpardonable sin of endorsing a
pro-life Democrat from Nebraska. Apparently it is not just pro-life Democrats who will not be tolerated by NARAL, but also stalwart pro-choicers who merely wish to
co-exist with pro-life Democrats.

Conclusion

Having discussed the abortion issue for over 10 years now, I felt
a strange connection with the people there. I could relate to their passion and
excitement about the issues being discussed. I myself have been in many similar
pro-life talks and have the same types of conversations they have with the
public week in and week out. It was interesting to think that these people have
devoted their lives to defending that which my moral intuition tells me is the
greatest moral wrong. In that moment, I realized perhaps they view me and my
friends as doing the same and being equally misguided. 
Although, I can say that the
evening did not end with moral ambiguity. As the training was wrapping up the
spokeswoman did a brief Q&A. Answering one question she tongue-in-cheek replied “We’re very live and let live here” and then belly-laughed saying, “Sorry,
I have a very dark sense of humor.” Dark indeed. 
At last: something we can agree
on.
[Today’s guest post is by Jeremy R.]

The impact of parental involvement laws on teen abortion rates

[Today’s guest post by Candace Stewart is part of our paid blogging program.]

Recently I wrote a blog post showing evidence of the effectiveness of pro-life laws. In that post, one law I didn’t mention was parental involvement laws. I chose to leave those laws out of my previous analysis because they only affect a minority of the population that may seek abortion. (Currently, women aged 17 and under make up only 3.6% of all abortion customers.)

However, I came across this paper by the Institute of Labor Economics which I thought was worth writing about. The paper analyses the effects of parental involvement laws (which includes both parental consent for abortion and mere notification of parents before abortion) on teenage birth rates.

Now as it is with most anti-abortion laws, the effectiveness of parental involvement laws on reducing teen abortions is controversial. For one, teens whose parents don’t mind or who approve of their abortions aren’t affected by these laws. For another, teens could travel to another state to obtain an abortion, or get a judicial bypass by claiming that telling their parents of the abortion would endanger them (even if it isn’t true). Compared to many other pro-life laws, parental involvement laws are relatively easy to circumvent.

However, more and more states have been enforcing parental involvement laws, and the number of abortion facilities throughout the country has declined. The Institute of Labor Economics paper estimates that in the past 25 years (since Planned Parenthood v. Casey upheld a Pennsylvania parental consent law), 500,000 additional births to teens have occurred as a result of more states passing parental involvement regulations as well as increasing travel distance that teens must travel to reach an abortion center. Put more plainly: a paper written by authors unaffiliated with the pro-life cause has estimated that 500,000 lives were saved as a result of pro-life legal efforts.

Given that parental involvement laws affect a small percentage of women that seek abortions, half a million lives saved in 25 years (or 20,000 lives per year) is very impressive. This adds to the bundle of evidence that pro-life laws are effective in their goal of saving more lives.

Some more good news is that the absolute number of teenage births has declined by 67% from 1991 to 2016. Similarly, teen abortions have declined by 72% from 1991-2013 (see Table 1.1). Fewer teens are becoming pregnant, and among those who do conceive, fewer of them are choosing abortion compared with 30 years ago. According to Guttmacher data (see Table 1.2), the percentage of 15- to 17-year-olds who abort their pregnancies declined from a high of 50% in 1985 to 31% in 2013.

The exact reasons for the lower teen pregnancy rate are up for debate, and multiple causes are likely at play. Better contraceptive use and improved methods certainly play a role, but unfortunately, the percentage of high school students who report using no contraception at last intercourse has remained relatively steady since 1999. The recession probably contributed, but teen pregnancy continued to decrease even after the recession ended. Whatever the reason, fewer teens being put in the position that could lead them to choose abortion is a wonderful thing.

While all this is cause for celebration, I think this should also be cause to call on pro-lifers to reach out and support those teens who get pregnant and give birth to their babies even when they have been led to believe that abortion was the “right” choice for them. Students for Life set a great example by sticking up for pregnant teen Maddi Runkles when no one else was. Pro-lifers can make great progress in further reducing the teen abortion rate both by supporting pregnant teens and fighting for anti-abortion laws.

The impact of parental involvement laws on teen abortion rates

[Today’s guest post by Candace Stewart is part of our paid blogging program.]

Recently I wrote a blog post showing evidence of the effectiveness of pro-life laws. In that post, one law I didn’t mention was parental involvement laws. I chose to leave those laws out of my previous analysis because they only affect a minority of the population that may seek abortion. (Currently, women aged 17 and under make up only 3.6% of all abortion customers.)

However, I came across this paper by the Institute of Labor Economics which I thought was worth writing about. The paper analyses the effects of parental involvement laws (which includes both parental consent for abortion and mere notification of parents before abortion) on teenage birth rates.

Now as it is with most anti-abortion laws, the effectiveness of parental involvement laws on reducing teen abortions is controversial. For one, teens whose parents don’t mind or who approve of their abortions aren’t affected by these laws. For another, teens could travel to another state to obtain an abortion, or get a judicial bypass by claiming that telling their parents of the abortion would endanger them (even if it isn’t true). Compared to many other pro-life laws, parental involvement laws are relatively easy to circumvent.

However, more and more states have been enforcing parental involvement laws, and the number of abortion facilities throughout the country has declined. The Institute of Labor Economics paper estimates that in the past 25 years (since Planned Parenthood v. Casey upheld a Pennsylvania parental consent law), 500,000 additional births to teens have occurred as a result of more states passing parental involvement regulations as well as increasing travel distance that teens must travel to reach an abortion center. Put more plainly: a paper written by authors unaffiliated with the pro-life cause has estimated that 500,000 lives were saved as a result of pro-life legal efforts.

Given that parental involvement laws affect a small percentage of women that seek abortions, half a million lives saved in 25 years (or 20,000 lives per year) is very impressive. This adds to the bundle of evidence that pro-life laws are effective in their goal of saving more lives.

Some more good news is that the absolute number of teenage births has declined by 67% from 1991 to 2016. Similarly, teen abortions have declined by 72% from 1991-2013 (see Table 1.1). Fewer teens are becoming pregnant, and among those who do conceive, fewer of them are choosing abortion compared with 30 years ago. According to Guttmacher data (see Table 1.2), the percentage of 15- to 17-year-olds who abort their pregnancies declined from a high of 50% in 1985 to 31% in 2013.

The exact reasons for the lower teen pregnancy rate are up for debate, and multiple causes are likely at play. Better contraceptive use and improved methods certainly play a role, but unfortunately, the percentage of high school students who report using no contraception at last intercourse has remained relatively steady since 1999. The recession probably contributed, but teen pregnancy continued to decrease even after the recession ended. Whatever the reason, fewer teens being put in the position that could lead them to choose abortion is a wonderful thing.

While all this is cause for celebration, I think this should also be cause to call on pro-lifers to reach out and support those teens who get pregnant and give birth to their babies even when they have been led to believe that abortion was the “right” choice for them. Students for Life set a great example by sticking up for pregnant teen Maddi Runkles when no one else was. Pro-lifers can make great progress in further reducing the teen abortion rate both by supporting pregnant teens and fighting for anti-abortion laws.