Evidence of Price Elasticity in Abortion Markets

For the final portion of my project, I tried to find trends in abortion rate data for instances of change in market policy. A noticeable change in abortion rates could be evidence in support of greater demand elasticity, while smaller or insignificant changes in abortion rate could be evidence of lesser demand elasticity.

To look at specific instances of shifts in abortion markets and look for effects on quantity, two variables must be recorded: dates of supply-altering shifts in markets and abortion rates for a number of years before and after the shift. This is very difficult. There are two generally-accepted sources for abortion rate data in the United States by state: the Guttmacher Institute and the CDC. I obtained data from both sources.

One interesting part of the abortion rate data from the CDC is a breakdown of abortions by state of administration and state of residency. Later, this data could be used to look at trends of women seeking abortions in a specific state and going to specific other states for the procedure. This would be important as one fault in a demand elasticity approximation would be women crossing frictionless state lines to obtain the procedure in another market.

However, the Guttmacher Institute only provides abortion rate data publicly from 1972 through 2014. The CDC’s Abortion Surveillance program only supplies data from 2008 through 2015. Similarly, the Guttmacher Institute has a webpage called State Policy Updates that provides information on which specific states enacted specific policies, sorted by year, however the data available online for this only begins in 2015. There is no reliable source for state-specific abortion rates in years following the earliest possible year to access the Guttmacher Institute’s specific breakdown of state law changes. I have emailed Guttmacher asking for older legal timelines broken down by state but have no received a response yet.

With this in mind, my new goal was to manually record state-specific policy changes were manually for a variety of measures. I began recording ultrasound requirements prior to abortion by year enacted into law and by state, with 2007 having three states pass such a law, according to Guttmacher. I have not been able to complete further research at this point. I plan to continue detailing state-by-state, year-by-year policy changes from going through press releases and similar sources. It is disappointing I have not been able to find a more comprehensive source for this information.

Despite this, Guttmacher did supply data on total numbers of TRAP laws (those which regulate abortion procedures and place undue hurdles on providers) in place by year that was readily available. This chart showed a spike in TRAP laws in force in 2011, meaning a great number of abortion-restricting legislation was enacted that year. It was also the year following the GOP’s wave election in which they gained many legislative seats at the state and national levels, so it is understandable that Guttmacher notes the year is singled out in particular with over 90 new TRAP laws put in place across 36 states. Though this data cannot be broken down by state in its presented fashion, 2011 does provide one of the clearest years for nation-wide change in abortion regulation.

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The national abortion rate does not seem to change trajectory following 2011. Though the rate does fall in the following years, it had been falling for some time. In fact, there was not a single year between 2006 and 2015 in which the abortion rate rose.

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Going forward, it would be important to continue collecting information on when TRAP laws went into effect for certain states so that trends in abortion rates before and after can be looked at for a large quantity of TRAP laws. Having a breakdown of the 2011 laws by state could also be helpful. Combined with the CDC statistics on state abortion rates and cross-state abortion rates, whether the abortion rates did fall in states that enacted these laws could be looked at as well as whether women crossed state lines in subsequent years to participate in other markets.

 

Though it wasn’t pertinent to any of the abortion rate data thus far collected, using the Guttmacher State Policy resource, the dates of all TRAP laws have gone into effect since 2015 were recorded. However, this was not particularly useful information without abortion rates for those years.

TRAP Laws by Year 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Alabama x
Arizona x
Arkansas x x x
Florida x
Indiana x x x x
Louisiana x x
Missouri x
Ohio x x
Oklahoma x
South Dakota x
Tennessee x x
Texas x