The Impact of Supply-Side Abortion Regulation Policies in Texas
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Although the United States formally legalized abortion in January 1973, abortion regulation and policy has continued to be a center point of political and ethical controversy. This is due largely to the power given to states to regulate abortion in cases of maternal health dangers or viability of a fetus. States have utilized this power in vastly different ways, usually depending on the political makeup of state legislature. This paper explores the effects of House Bill 2 in Texas on abortion trends, birth trends, and healthy pregnancies in Texas. Requirements of House Bill 2 include relabeling abortion pills to be consistent with FDA guidelines, requiring a provider to have hospital admitting privileges, requiring abortion facilities to be licensed as Ambulatory Surgical Centers, and mandating that these facilities be within 30 miles of the nearest hospital. These requirements forced the closure of over half of the state’s abortion facilities. A rapid analysis of abortion rates, birth rates, low birth weight rates, and first trimester prenatal care rates was composed to assess the impact of House Bill 2 in Texas. These rates were examined for the years 2006-2014. Following the passage of HB2, more than half of all abortion facilities closed in Texas. This led to an increase in the driving distance from each county to the nearest abortion facility. I find that an increase of 100 miles caused a 2.1%-3.7% increase in the birth rate and a 8.5%-24.4% decrease in the abortion rate, suggesting that supply-side abortion regulations can have a powerful effect on behavior. I also found marginally significant results suggesting that supply-side interventions that caused an increase in travel distance to the nearest abortion clinic do not increase the incidence of unhealthy pregnancies, as indicated by low birth weight rates and first trimester prenatal care rates. My analysis showed a 2.2%-3.3% increase in first trimester prenatal care and a 0.0%-5.4% decrease in the incidence of low birth weight. This suggests that the expected impact of reducing access to abortion can be mitigated, to some extent, by careful policy planning.