Minor Abortion Restrictions Reduced Abortions

As the House last week passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (HR 1997), 254-to-163, some pro-life activists, while continuing to seek reversal of Roe v. Wade, were pointing to the merits of passing interim legislation that chips at the edges of abortion on demand.

A Heritage Foundation study, “Analyzing the Effects of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion During the 1990s,” found that small legislative successes at the state level have reduced abortions.

The Unborn Victims of Violence Act would make injuring or killing an unborn child, in a federal jurisdiction, a crime separate from injuring or killing a pregnant woman. The House has twice before passed this bill, but the Senate then failed to take it up. This time, however, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) promises a vote on the Senate floor. President Bush supports the bill.

Dr. Michael New, a researcher at the Harvard-MIT Data Center, did the Heritage study using data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Planned Parenthood’s Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI). “For the 46 states reporting data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in both 1990 and 1999, the number of abortions fell from 1,035,573 to 854,416, a decline of 17.4%,” wrote New. Similarly, the abortion rate declined “from 20.61 to 16.62 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44.”

“The Supreme Court’s Casey v. Planned Parenthood decision [1992] gave states a little more freedom to impose restrictions,” New told HUMAN EVENTS.

“Those states that adopted pro-life legislation during the 1990s experienced larger reductions in abortion rates and ratios than those states that did not adopt such legislation,” reported New. The abortion “ratio” is the number of abortions per 1,000 births.

New examined various state policies and noted their impact after controlling for economic and demographic factors such as per capita income growth, the change in proportion of women of childbearing age, and any change in the racial composition of the female population:

Medicaid: “State laws restricting the use of Medicaid funds in paying for abortions reduced the abortion rate by 2.08 and the abortion ratio by 29.66.”

Informed consent: Informed consent laws require abortion clinics to tell women about the nature of abortion, its risks, and the development of unborn children. In 1992, “virtually no states” enforced informed consent laws, wrote New; by 2000, 27 states had them and enforced them. “The CDC data indicate that states that adopted informed consent laws saw the abortion ratio drop by 11.69 and the abortion rate by 0.92,” says the study. “When AGI data are used, statistical analysis indicates that informed consent laws have an even greater effect, reducing the abortion ratio by 22.46 and the abortion rate by 1.57.”

Parental consent or notification: “Parental involvement laws do appear to reduce overall abortion rates and ratios, but their impact is less statistically certain than the impact of Medicaid funding restrictions and informed consent laws,” wrote New. But, he admitted, his study examined these laws’ statistical impact on all females, not on just the subset of females affected by these laws (minors).

“Overall,” New concluded, “the results from the regression analysis indicate that pro-life legislation has been effective at reducing the incidence of abortion at the state level.”