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Beyond Roe v. Wade: A new era of abortion policy and its socio-legal implications

The overturn of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which handed over abortion policy to individual states, has led to diverse outcomes and interpretations.

While abortion rates decreased in states with restrictive laws, they increased in states where abortion remained legal. This led to a complex national picture regarding the impact of these legal changes on abortion rates. Additionally, pro-life activists are highlighting an increase in birth rates in 2023 as evidence of the effectiveness of abortion restrictions.

Some states have enshrined abortion rights in their constitutions, while others are considering new policies ranging from adding constitutional rights to complete bans. Estimates from the Guttmacher Institute and the Society of Family Planning estimated 1 million abortions in 2023 which would be a 10 percent increase over 2020.

There is criticism about the methodologies used in these estimates, particularly by pro-life scholars who question the reliability and margin of error in these data sets. There was a significant increase in birth rates in states with abortion bans. Texas is a key example where the birthrate rose following the implementation of restrictive abortion laws.

The experiences of organizations like the Heart of Texas Pregnancy Resource Center and the Pregnancy Resource Center in Grand Rapids are changing the dynamics and attitudes towards abortion in their respective states following legal changes.

The legal landscape and state-funded insurance coverage for abortions, particularly in states like California, Illinois, and New York, could influence abortion rates. The legal changes may influence societal attitudes and behaviors, paralleling historical legal decisions on other social issues.

Christianity Today writes:

Despite the confident framing of the numbers in the Times and elsewhere (The Atlantic said the data demonstrated “Dobbs’s Confounding Effect on Abortion Rates”), New agrees with the Guttmacher Institute that the available data “do not yet support a clearcut narrative on national abortion trends.” (In the National Review, he has countered claims that Dobbs didn’t reduce abortions as well as new estimates of pregnancies conceived in rape in states with pro-life laws.)

Pro-life advocates don’t think we know for sure how many abortions happened across the country last year but argue the evidence in the states that have restricted abortion shows legislation does work.

Birthrates rose 2.3 percent across states that banned abortion after Dobbs.
By looking at birthrates beginning seven to eight months after the passage of abortion restrictions compared with prior years, or comparing states with new abortion restrictions to rates in states with more permissive abortion laws, both pro-life and pro-abortion groups acknowledge that pro-life laws have had a major impact.

Analysis of preliminary data from the CDC shows that birthrates rose in 2023 by an average of 2.3 percent across states that banned abortion after Dobbs (and 2.7 percent including Texas, whose ban went into effect in 2021).

For example, at least two different studies found an average of 1,000 additional births per month in Texas, beginning seven months after the state’s “heartbeat” law, which banned abortions after roughly five weeks of pregnancy, went into effect in 2021.

Researchers found the bump in birthrates in states with total abortion bans represented “approximately 32,000 additional annual births resulting from abortion bans.”

Read the full article.

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