January 21, 2008


Quiet Decline: The good news about abortion that hasn’t made news. (Michael J. New, 1/21/08, National Review)

Pro-lifers have been very quietly receiving some good news in recent years. On Thursday, the Alan Guttmacher Institute released data indicating that the number of abortions has fallen by 25 percent since 1990. These findings are very consistent with data that was released this past November by the Centers for Disease Control. Overall the number of abortions has fallen 13 out of the past 14 years, including every year of the George W. Bush administration. Furthermore, there is a growing body of social-science evidence indicating that legal restrictions on abortion are playing a key role in these declines. [...]

[T]here exists plenty of good evidence that changes in the legal status of abortion have a real impact on the incidence of abortion. U.S. history should give supporters of abortion rights pause. Between 1973, the year of the Roe v. Wade decision, and 1980, the number of abortions performed in the United States more than doubled. Furthermore, there is also evidence that this liberalization of abortion policy had a significant impact on sexual mores. The years following Roe v. Wade saw significant increases in both sexual activity and the number of conceptions.

Articles that have appeared in peer reviewed academic journals provide further evidence that legally restricting abortion results in reductions in abortion rates and ratios. A 2004 study that appeared in The Journal of Law and Economics analyzed how changes in abortion policies in post-communist Eastern Europe affected the incidence of abortion. This study was particularly interesting because after the demise of communism, some Eastern European countries liberalized their abortion laws, while others enacted restrictions on abortion. At any rate, the authors concluded that modest restrictions on abortion reduced abortion rates by around 25 percent.

Furthermore, a study that was published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 found that a Texas parental-involvement law led to statistically significant reductions in the number of abortions performed on minors (both in and out of state) and a slight, but statistically significant increase in the teen birthrate. Finally, my own Heritage Foundation research on state level pro-life legislation which utilizes data from both the Alan Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control provides evidence that informed consent laws, public-funding restrictions, and parental-involvement laws are all correlated with reductions in the incidence of abortion.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 21, 2008 6:12 AM
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