The first birth data since Roe v. Wade was overthrown shows how many abortion bans have had the desired effect: births increased in every state where the ban was imposed, data analysis watch.
Comparing birth statistics in states before and after the bans were passed, researchers estimated that the laws caused about 32,000 annual births, based on the first six months of 2023, a relatively small increase and consistent with overall expectations.
So far, studies have shown that many women living in banned states ended their pregnancies anyway, by traveling to other states or ordering pills online. What they couldn’t show was how many women didn’t and their pregnancies were carried to term. The new analysis, released Friday as a working paper by the Institute of Labor Economics, finds that in the first six months of the year, between a fifth and a quarter of women living in states with state bans – who otherwise might have requested an abortion – I didn’t get one.
“The importance of our results is that when you remove access, it can affect fertility,” said Daniel Dench, an economist at Georgia Tech and author of the paper with Mayra Pineda-Torres of Georgia Tech and Caitlin Myers of Middlebury College. “When you make it difficult, women can’t always leave the state to get an abortion.”
Overall, the data suggests that the number of legal abortions nationwide has remained stable or increased slightly since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, despite abortion bans in what now number 14 States. This is likely due to the opening of new clinics in states where it is legal and the emergence of new ways to order abortion pills online, expanding access to both women who have traveled to those states and to those who lived there.
“It’s a story of inequality,” Professor Myers said. “Most people are moving out of banned states, one way or another, and more and more people in protected states are getting abortions. And at the same time, it shows something that this data cannot show: there is a significant minority of people in banned states who find themselves trapped. »
The researchers used birth data, by age and race, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005 to June 2023. They used a statistical method which compared states with similar birth trends before the Dobbs decision to estimate how much a ban had changed the expected birth rate. This increased their confidence that the change was due to politics and not other factors.
They found that births increased by 2.3 percent on average in states where abortion is banned compared to states where abortion remains legal.
The analysis showed that the increase in births disproportionately affected women in their 20s and black and Hispanic women, which researchers said could be because these groups tend to be poorer, which which makes travel difficult. These are also the demographic groups that tend to be most likely to seek abortion.
Dr. Alison Norris, who studies reproductive health at Ohio State and was not involved in the study, said she was not surprised to see births increasing, especially among these groups . She noted that before Dobbs, access to abortion was already limited in many states, so “any measure of change that we see will, in some way, be an underestimate of the challenges facing people are confronted with.”
The largest increases in births occurred in states where women had to travel the furthest to an abortion clinic. Texas, where the average increase in distance traveled to the nearest abortion clinic was 453 miles, saw an increase in births of 5.1 percent, compared to states that did not passed prohibition but had similar tendencies before Dobbs. Mississippi, where it increased by 240 miles, saw a 4.4 percent increase.
In states where the distance traveled to the nearest clinic changed the least, the relative change in births was smaller. Missouri, for example, had only one clinic, in St. Louis. When it closed, the average driving distance to the nearest clinic increased only two miles, because clinics along the Illinois border were already serving Missourians. Births there increased by only 0.4 percent.
Online abortion pills ordered from out-of-state sellers have also been shown to play a role in some states. The three states in which the increase in births was less than what researchers had predicted based on travel distances – Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana – also saw large increases in orders. medical abortions from the largest foreign supplier, according to an analysis of these orders.
“The insinuation of the media coverage of this data is that it’s a bad thing that there are more children being fostered in states with better laws than in states that speed up abortion,” Kristan said Hawkins, president of Students for Life. from America, in an email. “It’s a triumph that pro-life policies are saving lives.”
The birth data is preliminary: a more complete accounting of Dobbs’ effect on the fertility rate, including county-level data, will not be available for another year. Researchers can’t be sure whether the increase in births is attributed to women who wanted an abortion but couldn’t get one, but the timing and consistency of the results suggest so.
Researchers said these trends could change as more birth data becomes available. Women who gave birth in the first half of the year were likely already pregnant by the time the abortion ban began, or became pregnant shortly afterward. Since the data ended, new restrictions on abortion have been introduced in some places and access has expanded in others.
Births could decrease. New Shield Laws are intended to legally protect providers who send abortion pills to banned states, and people might change their sexual and contraceptive behaviors in response to the bans. Or, births could increase as more states restrict abortion; That could depend in part on the outcome of a case seeking to restrict the mailing of one of the two abortion pills.
“The abortion landscape continues to evolve,” said Professor Pineda-Torres. “People adapt, providers adapt, laws adapt. »