06 March 2006

Parental Notification Laws Have Little Impact

A New York Times study finds that parental notification laws have no significant impact on abortion rates:

[T]he Times analysis of the states that enacted laws from 1995 to 2004 — most of which had low abortion rates to begin with — found no evidence that the laws had a significant impact on the number of minors who got pregnant, or, once pregnant, the number who had abortions.

A separate analysis considered whether the existence or absence of a law could be used to predict whether abortions went up or down. It could not. The six states studied are in the South and West: Arizona, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. . . .

[T]hree previous studies of states where such data were available, completed before 1991, two found that any drop in minors' abortions was matched by an increase in minors getting abortions out of state.

If abortion proponents were more sincere in their desire to reduce abortions, in the context of a legislative environment where South Dakota's efforts to the contrary notwithstanding, banning abortion is not feasible, they would focus more efforts on realistic ways to prevent pregnancy.

Steps like making contraception and emergency contraception more easily available, and improving the economic prospects of mothers in tenuous situations generally, could prevent far more abortions while receiving far less political resistance, then devoting effort to symbolic and divisive, but ineffective, measures like parental notification laws.

Why don't they do this? Largely because a large share of the anti-abortion community opposes not just abortion, but also contraception, which is an electorally untenable position, given that an overwhelming majority of U.S. adults use contraception of some kind.

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