A recent study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute reveals a significant increase in the number of abortions performed in states neighboring those with restrictive abortion laws, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
National Abortion Trends
According to the Guttmacher Institute, which was initially founded as Planned Parenthood’s research arm before becoming independent in 2007, the national monthly average of abortions from January to June 2023 remained fairly consistent, hovering around 80,000. However, a noticeable spike occurred in March, with numbers reaching approximately 91,800 abortions for that month.
Preexisting Increase in Abortion Rates
“The rise in abortion rates isn’t a novel phenomenon,” says Tessa Longbons, Senior Research Associate at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. According to Longbons, the increase predates the Supreme Court’s June 2022 Dobbs decision and has been influenced by the Biden administration’s policies that have relaxed abortion restrictions, including promoting the use of mail-order abortion pills.
The Landscape of Abortion Legislation Across States
Fourteen states enacted complete abortion bans in 2023, with thirteen resulting from modern legislation and one—Wisconsin—reverting to an 1849 restriction after the repeal of Roe v. Wade. Virtually no abortions were performed in these states during 2023, which contrasts starkly with 2020 when these states accounted for 12% of all abortions in the U.S. or about 113,000 cases.
Regional Shifts in Abortion Practices
Texas, for example, reported only 17 abortions in the first four months of 2023 due to its near-total abortion ban, down from an average of 4,800 per month in 2020. This dramatic decrease in some states has led to a phenomenon of “abortion tourism,” where women travel to neighboring states with less restrictive laws to undergo the procedure.
Illinois, which is bordered by multiple states with various forms of abortion restrictions like Wisconsin, Indiana, and Kentucky, reported a 69% increase in abortion numbers from 2020 to 2023. Similarly, New Mexico, a state with no abortion restrictions and which shares a border with Texas, saw the number of abortions rise by a staggering 220% since 2020.
Incomplete State Reporting on Abortions
One of the complications in tracking abortion statistics is the lack of a unified, federal reporting system. “State reporting of abortion is an absolute chaos,” Longbons stated, urging both pro-abortion and anti-abortion sides to advocate for comprehensive, objective data collection.
The Changing Abortion Landscape and Social Impact
The study by the Guttmacher Institute also emphasizes that restrictive abortion laws disproportionately affect marginalized communities, including people of low income, people of color, and those in rural areas.
Despite South Carolina’s recent enactment of a heartbeat bill, restricting abortions after approximately six weeks, the state witnessed a 124% increase in abortions from 2020 to 2023. This delayed legislative action compared to its neighbors created a temporary influx in abortion rates.
The abortion landscape continues to evolve with new legal challenges and adjustments. For instance, Wisconsin is currently grappling with efforts to repeal its archaic 1849 abortion law, and its electorate has recently voted an openly pro-abortion justice, Janet Protasiewicz, into the state supreme court.
As the debate around abortion continues to intensify, and as states grapple with legislation, the pressing need for accurate and comprehensive data becomes even more crucial.