[Michael J. New is an assistant professor of practice at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America and a senior associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. This column was posted on April 12, 2023, at National Review Online. © 2023 by National Review. Reprinted by permission.]
Yesterday, the #WeCount project of the Society of Family Planning released new data on the number of abortions that have been performed in the United States since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. The #WeCount project compares abortion declines in states that have enacted pro-life laws with abortion increases in other states. Overall, they have found, 32,260 fewer abortions were performed in the United States in the first six full months after the Dobbs decision. That is an average of 5,377 fewer abortions every month. Good news for pro-lifers.
As I have commented before, the #WeCount estimate likely understates the actual abortion decline resulting from state-level pro-life laws. This is for two reasons. First, some states were already enforcing strong pro-life laws prior to the Dobbs decision. Texas started enforcing a Heartbeat Act on September 1, 2021. My Charlotte Lozier Institute analysis of Texas birth data found that the Heartbeat Act alone was preventing approximately 1,000 abortions from taking place in Texas every month. Additionally, Oklahoma started enforcing a Heartbeat Act in May 2022, which also resulted in a large pre-Dobbs abortion decline.
Second, the #WeCount analysis fails to account for the fact that abortion numbers were already increasing in many politically liberal states prior to Dobbs. This is partly due to the trend in rising abortion rates that started in 2018, driven by an increase in chemical abortions. It is partly due to policy changes. In recent years, pro-life parental-involvement laws were repealed in Illinois and weakened in Massachusetts. Also, state Medicaid programs in Illinois and Maine have started covering elective abortions. Some of the abortion increases in these blue states is due to trends and policy changes. It is not all due to women from conservative states seeking abortions in states where abortion laws are more permissive.
All in all, the #WeCount report is good news for pro-lifers. Supporters of legal abortion often try to downplay the effects of pro-life laws. It is heartening to see a group that supports legal abortion publish a report acknowledging that pro-life laws lower abortion rates. Pro-lifers should take heart. Laws legally protecting preborn children in 13 states have already saved tens of thousands of lives. Furthermore, we can be confident that future legislative efforts to protect the preborn will result in even more lives being saved.