Peer-reviewed studies find state pro-life laws reduce abortion rates

Arina Grossu is Director, Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Washington Examiner on August 14, 2014.

A groundbreaking meta-analysis study was just published in State Politics & Policy Quarterly showing the positive impact of state-level pro-life laws in reducing abortion rates.

In this comprehensive study, author Michael New, assistant professor of political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, analyzed studies based on two sources of abortion data (Guttmacher Instituteand the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) from nearly all 50 states for every year from 1985 to 2005.

The findings pertain mainly to public funding restrictions, parental involvement laws, informed consent laws, and how legal status of abortion affects the incidence of abortion.

Those advocating pro-life laws take note: The results indicate that public funding restrictions reduce abortion rates 10 percent to 15 percent.

A 2009 Guttmacher Institute review identified 18 peer-reviewed studies that analyzed the impact of state Medicaid funding restrictions on the incidence of abortion, and 15 of those studies found statistically significant evidence that abortion rates fell after Medicaid funding was reduced.

One study from North Carolina showed that when a state abortion fund periodically ran out of money, there were statistically significant decreases in the abortion rate and, months later, statistically significant increases in the birth rate.

In fact, this study found that 37 percent of the women who would otherwise have had an abortion carried their child to term when public funding was not available.

Regarding parental involvement laws, all of the 19 peer-reviewed studies analyzing the impact of parental involvement laws on abortion rates of minors showed a statistically significant decline ranging from 13 percent to 42 percent in the in-state abortion rate for minors, with most of the in-state minors' abortion rate decline being in the 15 percent to 20 percent range.

Some of these studies showed that parental involvement laws also improve the health outcomes for teen women: 4 percent to 9 percent reduction of pregnancy rate of 15- to17-year-old women, 12 percent to 20 percent reduction rate in gonorrhea for females under 20, and 11 percent to 21 percent reduction in the number of 15- to 17-year-old females who committed suicide.

The results also indicate that properly designed informed consent laws lower abortion rates. Specifically, informed consent laws based on the Casey model, requiring that women have the chance to view color photos of fetal development, reduce the abortion rate 3 percent to 7 percent.

Further, informed consent laws requiring in-person counseling the day before the abortion reduce abortion rates 7 percent to 12 percent.

The last findings show that the incidence of abortion is affected by its legal status. One study analyzing changes in abortion policy in Eastern Europe after the fall of communism found that abortion restrictions reduced abortion rates by about 25 percent.

Another study found that in 1971 and 1972 (after New York legalized abortion in 1970), state abortion rates were significantly higher not only in New York but also in surrounding states.

The last study analyzed a Texas law that reduced the number of abortions in Texas at or after 16 weeks of gestation by 88 percent, by requiring all abortions at or after 16 weeks of gestation be performed in either a hospital or an ambulatory surgical center.

All of this is to say that pro-life laws save lives by reducing abortion rates - and the pro-life movement is on a roll. States have passed a whopping 226 pro-life laws since 2011.

Between 2011 and 2013, more pro-life bills were signed into law than in the entire previous decade. They include parental involvement laws in 38 states, physician and hospital requirements in 39 states, gestational limits in 42 states, public funding limits in 17 states, mandated counseling in 17 states, and waiting periods in 26 states.

States should continue adopting common-sense laws that protect the health and safety of women and their children. They are literally life-saving.