COVID-19 Restrictions Reduced Abortion Clinic Visits, Even in Blue States
Due to COVID-19, 33 states banned elective medical procedures, and 13 of these states included surgical abortions. We collected street addresses of abortion clinics and linked them to SafeGraph’s data on visitor counts. We found at least a 6% decrease in clinic visits in February-May 2020 versus 2019. States that banned elective procedures or imposed other measures (e.g., stay-at-home orders) saw a substantial additional decrease (18.5% and 24.1%, respectively). There was also a significant additional 12.7% decrease from explicit surgical abortions bans, driven entirely by clinics that provided surgical abortions. Additionally, elective procedure bans reduce abortion clinic visits even in states supportive of abortion, suggesting our results are salient even in a post-Roe U.S. We estimate that the decrease in foot traffic over these four months reduced abortions by 7% in 2020 relative to 2019, or approximately 32,000 fewer abortions.
The authors thank SafeGraph, a data company that aggregates anonymized location data from numerous applications in order to provide insights about physical places for providing data for this study. To enhance privacy, SafeGraph excludes census block group information if fewer than five devices visited an establishment in a month from a given census block group. We are also grateful to conference participants at the 2020 Population Health Science Research Workshop, the 2021 Kansas Health Economics Conference, the 2021 American Society of Health Economists Conference, the 2021 Nordic Health Economics Study Group Conference, the 2021 Applied Economics Conference: Labour, Health, Education and Welfare in Belgrade, Serbia; and the 2022 Workshop on Health, Human Capital and Social Insurance in Bergen, Norway; and seminar participants at Wayne State University, Uppsala University, SOFI at Stockholm University, Stockholm School of Economics, University of Liverpool, University of Manchester, University of Gothenburg, Lund University, the University of Venice, and the University of Verona for their comments and suggestions. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
David Slusky reports service as an expert witness in litigation concerning abortion regulations.