More Uncomfortable News for the Right: Decades of Work by Anti-Choicers Does Nothing to Decrease Abortions


Who knew that anti-choice activists were actually trying to increase the number of second-trimester abortions? Because that’s precisely what they’ve done with their ill-advised, ongoing and ineffective attempts to restrict women’s access to safe, legal healthcare.

While the American public has repeatedly rejected laws that would make abortion illegal and treat women like criminals, anti-choice lawmakers in twenty-four states have resorted to chipping away at abortion rights by making access more difficult by mandating counseling and waiting periods. Proponents of these tactics claim that they are designed to give women time and information upon which to base their decision to have an abortion.

But these barriers are really ruses to block access. They reinforce the myth that abortion is a decision that women take lightly. The unmitigated truth is that women facing unwanted pregnancies will have already carefully weighed their options before even picking up the phone to make an appointment with a provider. Women evaluate what is best for them based upon their needs and the needs of their families, often consulting with people whom they trust, like family, a partner, and friends.

A Guttmacher Institute paper released today ("The Impact of State Mandatory Counseling andWaiting Period Laws on Abortion: A Literature Review") once and for all validates the pro-choice community’s opposition to obstacles like waiting periods and mandatory counseling sessions, finding that they do not reduce abortion rates, but rather cause unnecessary burdens. With the exception of one state that saw a decrease in abortions overall–though, critically, along with a concurrent increase in second-trimester abortions–not a single restriction showed any evidence of decreasing abortions.

Anti-choice activists have therefore succeeded not in reducing abortion rates, but in increasing the number of second-trimester abortions and in making life more difficult for women facing unwanted pregnancies. Because, while women aren’t changing their minds about abortion based on these barriers, they do find themselves jumping through more hoops to circumvent them. Women are having more second-trimester abortions (on average, 3 weeks later than their original intent) on account of these barriers or are traveling to other states with less burdensome restrictions.

Waiting periods cause the added burden of having to visit a provider twice, requiring them to take extra time off from work and finding extra child care. For women who have to travel long distances to reach a provider who will perform an abortion, traveling back and forth to that site twice presents a double barrier. Counseling sessions could have the effect of shaming women who have already weighed all their options and decided on abortion as the best option for them.

If anti-choice activists are really interested in reducing abortions, then they would be wise to take the statistics into account before pressing forward with further barriers to women’s access.

If they want to increase later abortions and make women’s lives even harder–well they’ve already done that.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with contact director of communications Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • colleen

    I’m pretty sure that they don’t want to increase later term abortions but ‘pro-life’ men and women are so focused on

    a. being ‘morally’ right
    b. controlling women and making women’s lives even harder

    that the inevitable consequences of their creepy obsessions don’t matter. After all, being a social conservative means never admitting responsibility or error.

  • invalid-0

    There’s that, but I think it goes even further. My theory is that the pro-life movement builds on concern for the fetus (glowing photos of it sucking its thumb, etc.) as nothing more than a pretext for controlling women’s sexuality. Some pro-lifers really do feel concern for the fetus as a person, but broadly, it comes down to being an excuse—something they can harp on and seem all serious about to give their cause weight. (The counterpoint is opposition to contraception. They’re against it, but they can’t find an emotional angle to it, and so end up coming off as creepy and controlling when they articulate that viewpoint. So you don’t hear it as much or as strongly as abortion.)

    What leads me to believe this is the way that Republicans and many politicians of pro-life bent are averse to funding things like children’s health-insurance programs, Head Start, etc. The whole trite-but-true point of caring for a child only until it is born. They claim, “Oh, but these programs are socialism, and that’s baaaad,” but the whole conservative principle of government staying out of people’s lives never stopped them from passing anti-choice laws, because “this is too important!” If they really were as gung-ho in their support for fetuses as they claim to be, we would see a similar commitment to young (born) children, and children’s programs in general would be a political third rail, like Social Security is today. Obviously, that’s not the political climate we live in.

    The results of this study are indeed interesting, but IMO, the only way that they are game-changing is if the pro-life movement’s concerns can be taken at face value. In the end, I think the pro-life movement will end only when feminism wins. If you take away everyone who wants to control women, and leave only the true fetus-as-person believers, you end up with a movement too small to be a political force—like, say, across-the-board pacifists. They’re out there, but when does anyone ever talk about them?

  • invalid-0

    As a woman that had to have abortion at the age of 23 (due to medical). I feel that all the pro-life people need to mind their own business, how do they know what a woman is going through. Having to make that choice is the hardest thing any woman will have to do and she doesn’t need some narrow minded people making it any harder.
    Pro-life people not only trying to rule the abortion issue but birth control itself. This is American everyone has the right to live their life how they see fit.
    In my state of Kentucky it hard for a single woman to get her tubes tied unless she already has 2 children,I know cause I have been trying since I was 18 to get my tubes tied and been told I can’t after a lot of red tape I finally got the new IUC. The way I see it I wouldn’t had to make the hardest choice in my life at 23 if I had the right to do with my body as I wished. Kentucky is the state of Pro-life airheads if you ask me .