Anti-Abortion Activities and the Market for Abortion Services

The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, July 2000 | Go to article overview

Anti-Abortion Activities and the Market for Abortion Services


KAHANE, LEO H.

LEO H. KAHANE [*]

Protest as a Disincentive

ABSTRACT. Gross-section data for the US are used to estimate the effects of anti-abortion activity on the demand and supply of abortion services in 1992. Empirical results show that anti-abortion activity had a significant negative impact on both the demand and supply of abortion services. Using estimates from a two-stage least-squares estimation of demand and supply, anti-abortion activities (measured as picketing with physical contact or blocking of patients) have decreased the market equilibrium abortion rate by an estimated 19 percent and raised the price of an abortion by approximately 4.3 percent. Taken together, the empirical results show that anti-abortion activities have been successful in making abortion services scarcer.

I

Introduction

THE LANDMARK 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which supports a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy, has given rise to political, legal and social battles over abortion rights. The political battle has taken the form of political party platforms (e.g., whether the Republican party should include in its platform an explicit opposition to legal abortion) and has been a centerpiece of political debate for legislators during elections.

On the legal front, those opposing abortion have worked to overturn Roe v. Wade. In addition, subsequent Supreme Court decisions have given states greater abilities to restrict access to abortion with the implementation of parental consent laws and mandatory waiting periods. [1]

Socially, the battle has taken the form of conflicts between so-called "pro-choice" groups (e.g., Planned Parenthood, the Feminist Majority Foundation and the National Abortion Federation) and "pro-life" groups (e.g., Operation Rescue, National Right to Life and various religious groups). Both sides have attempted to affect legislation and the politicians' views on legal abortion. Pro-life groups have also been quite active in attempting to directly discourage and/or prevent women from having access to abortion services. These actions have taken several forms, including picketing, blockading, and demonstrations as well as other forms of disruption. [2] These direct forms of anti-abortion activities are the focus of this paper. Specifically, this paper attempts to determine if anti-abortion activity has had an impact on either or both the supply and demand for abortion services. The answer to this question is an important one because if it is determined that anti-abortion activities do have a negative impact on the supply and demand for abortion services, this gives rise to an even larger issue. Namely, should the government intervene to prevent such activities (or lessen their impact) so that women can freely make use of these services, which have been determined by the Supreme Court to be a woman's legal right, and by such intervention perhaps impinge on the Constitutional rights to free speech and assembly with regard to those carrying Out anti-abortion activities. The analysis in this paper is a necessary first step since this question is moot if anti-abortion activities do not have a significant impact on the market for abortion services.

The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: Section II develops the model designed to test for the effects (if any) of anti-abortion activity on the market for abortion services and describes the data used to test the model, Section III discusses the empirical results, and Section IV contains concluding remarks as well as suggestions for further research.

II

Supply and Demand for Abortion Services

A. Anti-abortion activity, consumption externalities, and opportunity costs

THE ISSUE OF ABORTION has been investigated by a number of economists, demographers, and sociologists, with research following along two lines. One line deals with the political economy of abortion positions of legislators and policy formation (Medoff 1989; Chressanthis et.

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