As more regulations are imposed on abortion policy, conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that this would lead to a decline in the overall number of abortion procedures. This notion would be true both at the national level and here in Michigan, as laws like Act 182 of 2013, the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act, are taking effect in our state. Using past research on the effect of abortion regulations relating to actual abortion rates, I hope to show how these newer regulations will affect the number of abortions being performed in Michigan.
Shortly after the passage of Roe v. Wade, the question of whether abortions could be covered by Medicaid came into the forefront. In 1977, the Hyde Amendment went into effect, which cut off federal funding for abortions for Medicaid recipients. This was only at the federal level however, as states could still determine if they wanted to cover abortions through their individual state Medicaid programs. As certain states kept funding abortions while others did not, the effect of having the availability to get the procedure paid for in correlation with the number of abortions performed could be observed. In North Carolina, the state government set up a separate fund, the North Carolina State Abortion Fund (SAF) to cover abortions separate from their Medicaid program. The idea was that once the fund ran dry each year, then the state would not be able to cover abortion procedures for poor women. In data ascertained by the North Carolina Center for Health Statistics between 1980 and 1994, it was found that abortion rates in the state did decrease when the fund was depleted. Impoverished women who would otherwise have had an abortion chose to give birth to their child at an increased rate. Similar patterns were observed in states that did not offer Medicaid funding for abortions. It was clear that having access to coverage for the procedures did indeed have an impact on the rate of abortions.
The case could be made that the recent legislative action in Michigan that required an optional rider to be purchased on health insurance plans to cover abortion may lead to a decrease in overall abortion procedures in the state. Like North Carolina when the SAF was depleted and other states that did not allow their Medicaid programs to fund abortion procedures, the limitations on free abortions led to a higher birthrate among low income individuals. It is worth noting that, in 1987, Public Act 59 was signed into law, which restricted Medicaid coverage of abortions in Michigan. But, because it now costs extra in Michigan to have an abortion procedure covered by all insurance plans, even fewer women will have access to getting free abortion services. Since the law did not go into effect until March of this year, raw numbers on the rate of abortions are not available. However, if it does follow the trend of other states where coverage of abortions were limited, then we could see a decrease in the overall rate in Michigan.
This restrictive policy may shed light into how the rate of abortion policies will look in the future, however it is certainly not a guarantee that our state will mirror these results. When the data was gathered on the effect Medicaid restrictions had on the overall abortion rate in states, it was looking at a lower-income demographic, or rather those who would qualify for Medicaid. With Michigan’s new optional rider law, this would apply to individuals who have an insurance policy. This cluster of people may differ in the rate that they would normally receive abortions; therefore the results of the Medicaid restriction observations may not provide an absolute example for what may happen in Michigan. However, it can serve as a similar situation, and may provide insight into how abortion rates will look in Michigan in the future.
Another mechanism used by states to limit the amount of abortion procedures performed is requiring parental consent for minors who wish to terminate their pregnancy. This tool was used by several states around the same time as the passage of the Hyde Amendment in the late 1970’s. The regulations vary state by state, but generally it reads that all minors need consent from either one or two parents to obtain an abortion. Such regulations have been adopted by 38 states, and have been upheld in the Supreme Court (i.e. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Robert P. Casey). In estimations retrieved between 1978 and 1990 published by Deborah Haas-Wilson in the Journal of Human Resources, at a nationwide level such regulations decreased the demand of minors to receive an abortion by 13-25%. These numbers were found by using four estimation methods that took into account hard to measure variables, such as anti-abortion sentiment. Michigan has had a parental consent law on the books since it went into effect in 1993. Public Act 211 of 1990 states that any minor (17 years or younger) requires the consent of one parent or legal guardian to obtain an abortion, unless a minor obtains a waiver from a judge. That caveat of being able to receive a waiver from a judge may pose a problem for the notion that abortion rates have decreased since the law’s passage. However, by looking at raw numbers, it seems to have made somewhat of a difference. In 1993, the overall abortion rate in the state of Michigan was about 24%. Since then, it has been gradually decreasing to where it recently stood in 2011 at 15.3%.
Using past restrictions on abortions as reference points, it may be assumed that the policies that were enacted in Michigan since the late 1970’s until now that restrict abortion contribute to a lower rate of abortions being performed in Michigan. Statistical evidence can support this claim, and though the results of the more recent policies are not yet known, comparable policies seem to suggest that these too will lead to a decrease in abortion rates. This is the intended goal of the advocates of these proposals, and they can rest assured that their efforts to enact such policy are working in their favor.