Memo to anti-choice terrorists: You’re not doing much to decrease abortion rate

PhotobucketWhile you think it’d be more effective to convince anti-choice extremists who commit acts of terror against abortion clinics that what they’re doing is inherently wrong (because they’re, you know, attempting murder and all), this may be something they’d ponder more closely: Research is showing that these “tactics” may actually be pretty ineffective in decreasing abortion rates.

The authors find that while in the short-run there is a small increase in local fertility (1%), in the longer run women simply travel to other areas in order to have abortions. If this is, in fact, the case, then the overall the effect on abortion rates is negligible, suggesting that this particular form of terrorism is largely ineffective. [...]

The authors of this new research combine county-level violence data with data on abortion providers, abortions, and births. They find that following a violent attack on an abortion provider, the availability of abortions in the targeted country fell by 6% to 9% and that local abortion rates decline by 8% to 9%. In areas in which the form of the attack was murder, the effect was larger—nearly 10 times as large as the average effect.

The fact that the number of abortion providers, and abortions, in a specific county declined following an attack, however, does not prove that any women were discouraged from having an abortion. It’s possible that women simply traveled to a nearby county for the same service. One way to determine if this is what happened is to test if local fertility rates increased following the attack, which is what you would expect if the abortion rate had fallen. The authors find a small increase in fertility about 7 to 11 months following the attack—which implies an approximately five month effect. But in the longer run there is no evidence that fertility increased.

While I don’t think this study should take away from the issue of abortion access that the anti-choice movement does affect, the real takeaway here is that conducting acts of violence against providers is going to do little to actually change what these findings are really saying: That women will always need — and will always get — abortions.

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