Catholics United Study Finds that Overturning Roe v. Wade Will Have Minimal Effect on U.S. Abortion Rate

Posted September 03, 2008

Catholics United today released a study analyzing the likely effects overturning Roe v. Wade would have on reducing the actual numbers of abortions in the United States. The study challenges the conventional wisdom that pursuing strategies to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision protecting abortion rights constitutes an effective means of reducing or ending abortions.

According to the study, entitled Reducing Abortion in America: Beyond Roe v. Wade, there are only 16 states where over 45% of the adult population self identifies as “pro-life.” Enacting total bans on abortions in all of these 16 states would only affect 10% of all abortion decisions in the United States. However, many women in states where bans were enacted could still travel across state lines or procure illegal abortions in their own state. Therefore, the actual number of abortions affected by state bans would be less than this 10% figure. Even under an unlikely best-case scenario, if the 25 most “pro-life” states enact abortion bans, the study finds, overturning Roe v. Wade would affect less than 37% of all abortion decisions, leaving 63% unaffected.

“This study confirms what many have suspected for some time: that pursuing legal restrictions on abortion services is a generally ineffective strategy of addressing abortion in the United States,” said Dr. Joe Wright, assistant professor of political science at Penn State University and Visiting Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, and author of the study. “Successfully combating the practice of abortion requires policies which speak to the reasons most women choose abortions in the first place: economic insecurity, lack of health care, and absence of other essential family supports.”

Dr. Wright authored a similar study for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good – entitled Reducing Abortion in America: the Effect of Economic and Social Supports – which draws a clear connection between availability of family assistance programs and lower abortion rates.

The release of both studies comes as the Democratic Party is increasingly embracing “common ground” efforts to address abortion, and as the Republican Party dropped similar unifying language from its draft platform.

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