This study, published this month, was conducted by the Institute of Labor Economics and focused on the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which effectively returned the issue of abortion to the states.
The study found that in states that implemented some form of abortion restriction, the birth rate increased by an average of 2.3 percent in the first half of 2023. This increase equates to roughly 32,000 additional births annually as a direct result of the abortion bans.
The researchers who conducted the study described this shift as the "most profound transformation of the landscape of U.S. abortion access in 50 years," citing preliminary birth data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The study further revealed that as of November 1, 2023, 14 states are enforcing bans on abortion in nearly all circumstances. This has resulted in an increase in the average driving distance to the nearest abortion facility for 23 percent of U.S. women of reproductive age, from 43 miles one-way before Dobbs to 330 miles currently.
However, the findings have sparked contrasting interpretations. Kristan Hawkins, the President of Students for Life of America, told the New York Times that the research indicated a "triumph that pro-life policies result in lives saved." She criticized the negative portrayal of the increase in births in states with stricter abortion laws.
On the other hand, Alison Gemmill, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNN that the new numbers represented "an assault on reproductive autonomy." She pointed out that the noticeable change in population aggregates indicates a significant shift, as fertility rates typically do not fluctuate dramatically.
The authors of the study argued that the data suggests "diminished abortion access poses a risk to the health and financial stability of this vulnerable population." They noted that in 2020, approximately 1 in 5 pregnancies ended in abortion, and at the time of seeking abortions, 75 percent of patients were low-income, 59 percent had previously given birth, and 55 percent reported a recent disruptive life event such as falling behind on the rent or losing a job.
The study also highlighted the disproportionate effects of the abortion restrictions on specific demographics. The birth rates for Hispanic women and women aged 20 to 24 increased by an average of 4.7% and 3.3% respectively. Furthermore, in states where abortion restrictions made interstate travel more costly, such as Mississippi and Texas, the birth rates rose by 4.4% and 5.1% respectively.