The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Winter
2010

Abortion Restrictions Save Lives


Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson


President Obama has asserted more than once that reducing abortion requires reducing the “need” for abortion, yet the evidence continues to demonstrate that policies that reflect a respect for prenatal life do in fact drive abortion rates down. A recent study, by an economist at California State University, confirms that the Hyde Amendment—that has prohibited federal Medicaid funding of most abortions since 1976—as well as various state parental involvement laws, have significantly lowered abortion rates, especially among minors.

Using U.S. Census data from 1980, 1990, and 2000, as well as abortion-related data from the Alan Guttmacher Institute from 1982, 1992, and 2000, Marshall Medoff estimated the effects of restrictive abortion policies on the demand for abortion in the states. Unlike other studies, he also estimated the effects of the average price of an abortion in each state in each year on that overall demand, finding an inverse correlation (p.01) between price and demand in all of his statistical models, confirming his theory that “abortion costs alter women’s pregnancy voidance behavior.”

Medoff was therefore not surprised to find that state Medicaid funding of abortion increased the number of abortions by between 33 and 37 per 1,000 pregnancies of women, ages 15 to 44, relative to states that do not fund Medicaid abortions. The coefficient was statistically significant (p.05) in all models, including those that controlled for a variable, created by the Council of State Governments, that measures a state’s “antiabortion sentiment.”

Nor was Medoff surprised that states with parental involvement laws reduced the abortion rate by 28 per 1,000 pregnancies relative to states without such laws. The coefficient was significant in all models (p.05), and remained so even in tests that disaggregated the variable into two: one for states that required parental consent for an abortion involving a minor daughter and the other for states that required parental notification. Further demonstrating findings of causality, the economist found that abortion restrictions exerted even greater effects on minor teens. State Medicaid funding of abortions was found to increase the number of abortions by between 61 and 70 per 1,000 pregnancies of minor teen girls relative to states that do not fund Medicaid abortions (p.01 in all models).

Likewise, parental involvement laws reduced abortion by between 46 and 52 per 1,000 pregnancies of minor teen girls. Whether requiring notification or consent, each type of parental involvement law was significantly related to lower abortion demand in this age group, and each exerted a significantly greater impact (p.05 for each) on reducing abortion in this age group relative to all women of childbearing age. These robust results might be expected given the nature of parental involvement laws. Yet because teens experience higher rates of abortion than other age groups, these findings not only demonstrate the merits of such policies, but also raise doubts about politicians who say they want to reduce abortions but also vote against legislative means to achieve that end.

(Marshall H. Medoff, “Price, Restrictions, and Abortion Demand,” Journal of Family and Economic Issues 28 [December 2007]: 583–99.)

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