Do State-Level Anti-Abortion Laws Reduce Abortion Rates?

Joe Carter | October 28, 2015

Abortions have declined in states where new laws make it harder to have them, the Associated Press noted in June. But abortion has also waned in states where abortion rights are most protected. What are we to make of such findings?

Pro-life advocates claimed this was evidence of the effectiveness state-level abortion restrictions, while pro-abortion advocates claimed the decline was due to expanded access to effective contraceptives and a drop in unintended pregnancies. Who is right?

In an attempt to answer that question let’s consider the evidence that various types of abortion laws and policies have on the reduction in the rate of abortion.* State-level restrictions and policies that affect abortion rates usually take one of the following seven forms:

Gestational limits

Partial-birth abortion bans 

Public funding restrictions/bans 

Parental involvement laws

Informed consent laws

Increased access to contraceptives

Physician, hospital, and abortion provider requirements

For the sake of brevity, I’ll merely summarize the findings on each type of restriction and provide links to resources that explain the current evidence. Since there are no authorities or evidence that everyone in the debate can consistently agree on, I’ll refer to and cite studies and sources that are generally considered reliable or uncontroversial…

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