Data on the Effect of Legal Restrictions on Abortions

Some time ago I wrote a post in which I tackled the claim that Democratic administrations are better at reducing abortion than Republican ones because they reduce poverty more. I had hoped I’d have a chance to do a second round looking specifically at the unexpected pregnancy rate and abortion rate for women in poverty. (A large percentage of the women who have abortions live at less than 200% of the poverty line — but that same demographic group also has a much higher unexpected pregnancy rate than other women.) However, things have been very busy at work lately and there’s a limit to how much statistical analysis a fellow can do in a day before he needs a tall drink and a good book — not to mention some time with the offspring. So it’ll have to wait till after the holiday retail season.

However, someone rather more qualified than I is on the case. Michael J. New of the University of Alabama has an article at The Public Discourse in which he looks at the data supporting the claim (which, surprisingly, has become controversial in some quarters) that anti-abortion regulations reduce the number of abortions. Some highlights are as follows:

Public Funding Restrictions

There are a number of studies in peer reviewed academic journals that indicate that restrictions on public funding reduce abortion rates. In fact, there is close to a consensus on this subject among social scientists. I have conducted three studies which have examined state abortion data from almost every state for every year from 1985 to 1999. Each study finds that these state level public funding restrictions reduce the incidence of abortions by over 10 percent.

Informed Consent Laws

Informed consent laws require that women seeking abortions receive information about public and private sources of support for single mothers, health risks, and fetal development. Between 1992 and 2000, 27 states have enacted informed consent laws. Abortion data obtained from both the pro-abortion Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) and the officially neutral Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that informed consent laws reduce the incidence of abortion. Furthermore, natural experiments which compare the effects of nullified laws to enacted laws have shown that nullified laws have no real effect on state abortion rates whereas enacted laws result in fewer abortions. This provides more evidence for the effectiveness of informed consent laws.

Parental Involvement Laws

There exist at least 8 studies in peer reviewed academic journals–including one in The New England Journal of Medicine–which demonstrate that pro-life parental involvement laws reduce the in-state abortion rate for minors anywhere from 13 percent to 19 percent. Furthermore, a recent study I have conducted shows that more protective parental involvement laws–those that require parental consent and those that require the involvement of two parents–result in even larger decreases in abortion.

Case studies provide still more evidence of the effectiveness of state level pro-life legislation. Between 1992 and 2000 the overall abortion rate declined by 14 percent (among the 47 states reporting data both years). However, those states that were especially active in enacting pro-life legislation during the 1990s experienced even larger decreases in abortions.


Mississippi has probably been more active than any other state in enacting pro-life legislation. During the 1990s the legislature enacted an informed consent law, the most protective parental involvement law in the country (one which requires the consent of both parents), a partial birth abortion ban, and a sweeping conscience clause allowing any medical professional to opt out of participating in an abortion.

Abortion Rate Decline: 1992-2000: 52.07%


In the 1980s the Pennsylvania state legislature passed the Abortion Control Act, signed into law by the late Governor Robert P. Casey. It was one of the most comprehensive informed consent laws and included a parental consent law (It was the law the Supreme Court ruled on in its Casey vs. Planned Parenthood decision in 1992). This law took effect sometime after the Supreme Court’s decision.

Abortion Rate Decline: 1992-2000: 23.50%

South Carolina

During the 1990s South Carolina passed a partial birth abortion ban, a parental consent law, an informed consent law, and an act regulating abortion clinics.

Abortion Rate Decline 1992-2000: 33.57%


During the 1990s Michigan enacted a partial birth abortion ban, an informed consent law, a parental consent law, a ban on public funding, and abortion clinic regulations.

Abortion rate decline 1992-2000: 21.39%

[For links to the original studies cited, click through to Prof. New’s full article.]

H/T: The Cranky Conservative

4 Responses to Data on the Effect of Legal Restrictions on Abortions

  1. S.B. says:

    Of course, the irony is that to leftists, it’s America’s fault both for 1) allowing Arab terrorists to enter Iraq and kill people there (i.e., for allowing people to die in Iraq), AND for 2) trying to stop Arab terrorists who have killed people in Iraq. Catch-22.

  2. S.B. says:

    Well, I had two tabs open, and commented on the wrong post.

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