The Effects of Short-Term Variation in Abortion Funding on Pregnancy Outcomes
In 1978 North Carolina created a special fund to pay for abortions for indigent women. The appropriations for that fund have proven inadequate during five of the years in which it has been in operation, with the result in each case that no state funding was available for several months. This on-again, off-again funding pattern provides a natural experiment for" estimating the short-run effect of changes in the cost of abortions on the number of abortions (and births) to indigent women. We utilize a unique dataset obtained from the State, which includes individual records for all pregnancies terminated in the State since 1978. We estimate the effects of funding termination on the abortion rate per month, the birth rate per month (adjusted to take account of variations in gestation periods), and the probability that a pregnancy will end in abortion, for various demographic groups. The results suggest that the decisions of poor black women aged 18-29 are particularly sensitive to the availability of abortion funding. Overall, approximately 3 in every 10 pregnancies that would have resulted in an abortion, had state funds been available, are instead carried to term.