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Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among Minors

Michael J. New

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Center for Data Analysis Report #07-01

The reduction in the incidence of abortion during the 1990s became a topic of much discussion dur­ing the 2004 presidential election. Between 1990 and 1999, the number of reported legal abortions declined by 18.4 percent. Some commentators noted that this decline took place during the Administration of President Bill Clinton, who sup­ported abortion rights and argued that "pro-life" voters receive little tangible benefit from electing Presidents who oppose abortion. Others argued that these reductions were made possible partly by legislation passed by pro-life legislators and upheld by judges appointed by pro-life Presidents.

Despite attention to the reduced overall abortion rate, the more dramatic decrease in the incidence of abortion among minors has received relatively little discussion. In 1985, 13.5 abortions were performed on minors for every 1,000 girls between the ages of 13 and 17. By 1999, the abortion rate for minors had fallen by over 50 percent to 6.5 per 1,000 teen­age girls ages 13 to 17.

Several factors may explain this decline in the incidence of abortion among minors. First, a stron­ger economy has been shown to reduce the inci­dence of abortion among adults and may have had a similar impact on minors. Second, several studies have found that during the 1990s, teenagers became more likely to delay sexual activity and to abstain from sex altogether. Third, pro-life legisla­tion enacted during the 1990s, particularly parental involvement laws intended to influence minors, were effective in reducing abortion.

This analysis explores the third explanation. The regression results indicate that certain types of pro-life legislation are correlated with reductions in the incidence of abortion among minors:

Parental involvement laws reduced the minor abortion rate by an average of 1.67 abortions per 1,000 females between the ages of 13 and 17.

Medicaid funding restrictions reduced the minor abortion rate by an average of 2.34 abortions per 1,000 females between the ages of 13 and 17.

The results of two natural experiments indicate that pro-life legislation, not changing values, is responsible for the declines in abortion.

Read the entire article on the Heritage Foundation website (new window will open).

Posted: 18-Feb-07



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