Gathering Data on Abortion Law History

One of the goals of this project is to try to identify consistencies in abortion market demand elasticity. Ideally, it would be most useful to be able to see commonalities in trends across different populations when similar laws are implemented. In order to be able to chart a portion of a market demand curve, different points of the same demand curve must be identified. This is harder than it sounds; when using points found by changing market equilibrium, it must be established that a certain change is solely due to a shift in supply and that the demand curve remained constant. This, then, requires a sudden shift to take place in abortion policy that effects supply in such a way that equilibrium would shift without any significant changes in demand. Elasticity could be roughly estimated from such a shift.

One of my goals, then, is to identify different case studies in which states made major changes to abortion policy relating to supply that implement the same change (e.g. a TRAP law such as new facility requirements for abortion providers). Once similar policies have been identified, the effective date for these laws must be identified and abortion data before and after that date of implementation can be analyzed for changes in quantity and price. Elasticity can then be derived.

This is, unfortunately, harder than one would expect. While the Guttmacher Institute’s Data Center has historical data (the Guttmacher Institute’s abortion tracking is one of two nationalized abortion tracking databases, alongside the CDC’s Abortion Surveillance program; based on various methodologies in studies, Guttmacher is considered the more reliable/comprehensive). It also has up-to-date lists of abortion laws by state. It does not, however, have the history of abortion laws by state recorded by year (at least publicly). What I am working on now is finding the correlating laws for laws that have great similarities across state borders. Having already acquired the numerical data for abortion by year from the Guttmacher Data Center, being able to identify specific years in which supply for specific states should have undergone significant contraction will allow me to establish whether those policies corresponded to significant changes in abortion quantity. It would be ideal to identify as many of these changes as possible for a greater pool of potential market shifts as possible.

This still will not allow me to find elasticity, however. I will also need data on abortion price from before and after the policy shift, which simply may not be possible to establish. I have not come across such historical data and I imagine this data may be especially hard to compile as both broadly defined on a demographic level (across all ages, socioeconomic statuses, circumstances, etc.) while also be specific to a state.