Abortions have become 6% rarer since the end of Roe v Wade
After the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organisation last June, which reversed its decision in Roe v Wade and let states ban abortion, the biggest remaining question was what effect the change would have.
On paper, Roe established a nationwide right to abortion.
However, conservative states had already implemented rules before Dobbs that made abortions, though technically legal, very hard to obtain.
Liberal states, in contrast, were unlikely to impose new restrictions.
Were Roe’s protections worth as much in practice as in principle?
In the past, state-level data on the prevalence of abortion were patchy.
But a report released by the Society of Family Planning (sfp), a non-profit group, quantifies the effect.
From July to December 2022 there were 31,180 fewer abortions than pre-Dobbs rates would suggest, a decline of 6%.
That is despite a rise in abortions administered by virtual clinics, which prescribe abortifacient drugs like mifepristone (which the Supreme Court has temporarily protected).
In early 2022 sfp began compiling a database of every clinic, medical office and hospital known to perform abortions.
It asked each one to calculate monthly abortion counts, and offered to pay expenses for data collection.
Of the organisations contacted, 83% submitted numbers.
sfp produced estimates for the remaining 17%.
The overall decline understates the effect Dobbs has had in much of the country.
Across the 22 states where new restrictions took effect following the ruling, the number of abortions fell by 67,040 (63%).
Even in states with tight pre-Dobbs restrictions, the decision’s impact has been vast.
After Texas implemented a law in 2021 that banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat could be detected, its abortion rate fell from 5,400 per month to 2,200.
In April 2022 sfp recorded 2,700 abortions in the state.
But between July and December 2022 it has logged fewer than 100.
Abortion has also all but disappeared in seven other states, including four in the South.