Methodological Issues in the Evaluation of Parental Involvement Laws: Evidence from Texas
NBER Working Paper No. 12608
The number of states that require parental involvement in a minor’s decision to terminate a pregnancy has more than doubled since 1988. Congress is currently considering legislation that would further limit access to abortion for minors who reside in states that enforce parental involvement laws. So far, the academic literature has not reached a consensus as to the impact of such abortion restrictions, mainly due to methodological limitations caused by the inability to measure cross-state travel and misclassification of exposure. Using detailed data on abortions and births from Texas, we demonstrate that these limitations led researchers to overestimate the decline in minors’ abortion rate, underestimate the increase in their birth rate, and to miss an important behavioral response to the law, which is the tendency to delay the abortion among a group of older minors. Correction of these methodological problems is important given the controversy surrounding abortion and the need of voters and policymakers to accurately assess the likely impact of these laws.