The Daily Chart: The Dobbs Effect

The aftermath of the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade has concentrated chiefly on its political effects, but has it reduced the number of abortions or increased the birth rate? Abortion with few or no limits remains available in most states, and as most abortions occur early in a pregnancy even those states that have adopted a 15-week ban should not be expected to see significant changes. Is anyone trying to measure the effects?

The German-based Institute of Labor Economics, a quirky outfit I have referenced a couple times before, has produced a dense statistical estimation (PDF file) whose methodology is so rarified that it is nearly impossible for a layperson to read much less comprehend. And even through the thick academic prose of such studies it is obvious the authors (the primary author is a feminist professor at Middlebury, so enough said) write from a firmly pro-abortion point of view, and don’t even try to affect a neutrality supposedly essential to social science.  That said, the mumbo-jumbo statistical thicket yields an estimate of a small but discernable effect: there are fewer abortions, and a slightly higher birthrate in some states, which can be attributed partly to women using contraception more effectively, or deciding not to have an abortion. From the introduction:

The results indicate that states with abortion bans experienced an average increase in births of 2.3 percent relative to states where abortion was not restricted.

(Caveat: No state has a complete “abortion ban.”)

And here’s a relevant (but confusing) chart from the study:

The calculation of “foregone abortions” represents partly the effect of fewer women becoming pregnant than in the pre-Dobbs regime. In other words (in fact the study says this): there are fewer unintended pregnancies. Which has to be counted as a small win, and vindication for the long time claim of the pro-life community about how the Roe regime affected our culture.

The New York Times offers a much more reader-friendly account of the study if you subscribe, along with this simpler chart:

This really is a case where “further research” will be useful.

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