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Has the repeal of Roe v Wade reduced the # of abortions?

One fact that's often overlooked; since Roe v Wade was enacted in 1973 the number of abortions performed in the US has dropped almost in half. Keep in mind that the US population has grown from 221 million during this time to approx 330 million. Ergo the rate of abortion has dropped by almost 2/3rd.


How did this happen? Better information to young adults and birth control has had a huge impact. The drop is not statistically a function of more people having unwanted pregnancies.


That said, it appears (at least for the moment) that the repeal of Roe v Wade will not materially move the dial.


Persistent trend

By German Lopez and Ashley Wu

The NY Times

Sept 7, 2023


After the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year, it looked like the number of abortions would soon plummet across the country. But new estimates suggest that has not happened. The number of legal abortions has held steady, if not increased, nationwide since 2020, our colleagues Amy Schoenfeld Walker and Allison McCann reported today.


How is that possible? New data from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit specializing in reproductive health, implies that more people are traveling across state lines or using telemedicine to get abortions, including through the use of abortion pills. The increase in use of those options has offset the decrease in abortions resulting from new state bans, Amy and Allison found.


This map tells the story. As you can see, states bordering those with bans largely saw increases in the number of abortions in the first half of 2023 compared with the same period in 2020. In Illinois, for example, estimated abortions rose 69 percent.



If anything, Guttmacher’s data underestimates the number of abortions. It does not count abortions obtained outside the formal health care system, including those done with pills acquired through community support networks or websites based outside the U.S. And it does not include counts from states with bans, though there are few or no reported abortions there.


Altogether, the data suggests that there are the same number of abortions, or more, occurring in the U.S. now than there were before the Supreme Court’s ruling last year in the case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.


For abortion rights advocates, this is a mixed outcome. Not everyone can afford to travel across state lines or access telemedicine, so it’s likely that some people who want to get an abortion still cannot do so. And while the overall count is up, abortions were rising before the Supreme Court’s decision. “They may have continued to rise even more steeply than observed if it weren’t for the bans,” Caitlin Myers, an economist at Middlebury College, told Amy and Allison.



What do the data say about the impact of the Dobbs decision? Guttmacher and Myers caution that it is too soon to draw definitive conclusions, noting the possibility of future restrictions. But the immediate impact on the overall number of abortions has been smaller than many abortion rights advocates feared. And for anti-abortion groups, the data could be an argument for further limits to access, including a nationwide ban.

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