Tracking the Times
On Monday, the New York Times published an article arguing that recently enacted parental-involvement laws have been unable to reduce the incidence of abortion among teens. On its surface, the analysis looks convincing. ....
However, there exist some significant shortcomings with the Times's analysis. First, the authors only examine data in 6 of the approximately 12 states that have passed parental-involvement laws since the mid 1990s. Second, the authors obtain their abortion data from state health departments which tend to be unreliable. Academic researchers who are studying abortion almost always use data from either the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) which have more reliable collecting and reporting mechanisms.
The state health departments tend to rely on voluntary reporting by abortion facilities. The AGI, on the other hand, actually contacts all known abortion practitioners in the state. They then pass the data on to the CDC.
New also looks at data the Times doesn't look at -- the rate of pregnancy among underage girls.
I obtained data on teen abortions from the Center for Disease Control for every year until 2002, the last year for which data was available. Using population data from the U.S. Census Bureau, I calculated state data on teen abortion rates. Teen abortion rates give the approximate likelihood that a teen girl between the ages 13 to 17 will undergo an abortion that year. I then examined the teen abortion rate in the 6 states which the Times authors considered in their own analysis.
Now, I was unable to analyze Arizona's parental-consent law because it took effect in 2003 and CDC data was unavailable for years following 2002. However, in three of the five other states analyzed by the Times reporters, I found significant reductions in the teen abortion rate after the passage of a parental-involvement law. In Texas, the teen abortion rate has fallen by 25 percent since the passage of the parental-notification law in 2000. Furthermore, both Virginia and South Dakota passed parental-notification laws in 1997. Since that time, the teen abortion rate in each state declined by over 33 percent.
.... In the early 1990s, Mississippi, Minnesota, and Nebraska all passed parental-involvement laws. By the end of the decade, the teen abortion rate had fallen in half in each of these states. .... The fact that teen abortion rates decline while overall abortion rates remain fairly constant shows that these parental-involvement laws are likely responsible for the abortion declines and not broad shifts in values or mores that happen to be correlated with the passage of legislation. ....
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