How Far Is Too Far? New Evidence on Abortion Clinic Closures, Access, and Abortions
We estimate the effects of abortion-clinic closures on clinic access and abortions using variation generated by Texas HB2, a “TRAP” law that shuttered nearly half of Texas' abortion clinics in late 2013. Our results suggest a substantial and non-linear effect of distance to clinics. Increases from less than 50 miles to 50-100, 100-150, and 150-200 miles reduce abortion rates by 15, 25, and 40 percent, respectively, while additional increases in distance appear to have no additional effect. We also introduce a proxy for congestion that captures the potential for there to be effects of closures which have little impact on distance but which reduce per-capita capacity. We demonstrate that this is also an important mechanism through which closures affect abortion; moreover, ignoring this mechanism causes the effects of distance to be somewhat overstated. Several features of the data imply that magnitude of the effects on abortion are too big to be explained by interstate travel. That said, the results of a simulation exercise demonstrates that the effects are too small to plausibly be detected in analyses of birth rates.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23366
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