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Study: Pro-life laws aid abortion decline

WASHINGTON (BP)–Various state-level pro-life measures result in “statistically significant declines” in the country’s abortion rate, according to a study in the State Politics & Policy Quarterly.

The report by Michael New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, revealed a correlation between the drop in the number of abortions in the United States and the rise in state regulation of abortion, including laws requiring informed consent, waiting periods and parental involvement.

Abortions in the United States declined by 22.2 percent between 1990 and 2005, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. New said several factors might play a role in the decrease in abortions, but his research focused on the relation of two U.S. Supreme Court opinions to the decline — Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992).

The Casey decision allowed states to regulate abortions as long as the regulations do not pose an “undue burden” on women. In 1992, New pointed out, no states had informed consent laws or waiting periods. By 2005, however, 33 states had informed consent laws and 22 states required women to wait a specified period of time before obtaining abortions. In 2005, 34 states also enforced parental involvement laws.

New says his study proves that such anti-abortion legislation at the state level has played a factor in the decline of abortions between 1990 and 2005.

In his study, New compared states in which judges nullified anti-abortion legislation with states where anti-abortion legislation went into effect. The comparison showed states with enforced laws had larger in-state abortion declines than states where laws were nullified.

The changes brought by Casey and the subsequent decrease in abortions show the pro-life movement is growing stronger, New said, despite its failure to gain the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court opinion legalizing abortion.

“Even though abortion opponents have been unsuccessful in their efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973) they have enjoyed incremental policy success in recent years,” New wrote. “Surveys indicate that more Americans are willing to describe themselves as ‘pro-life’ (The Washington Post 2009) and a higher percentage of people are willing to support restrictions on abortion (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 2009).”

New’s study, “Analyzing the Effect of Anti-Abortion U.S. State Legislation in the Post-Casey Era,” appears in the current issue of the State Politics & Policy Quarterly, published in March.
Amanda Kate Winkelman is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.

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