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Measuring the Impact of Dobbs in the Coming Years, Part Three: Will Fewer Abortions Mean More Births?

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Upon initial examination, the solution appears to be self-evident. A pregnant woman who, as a consequence of the implementation of new legislation in her state, decides not to terminate her pregnancy, will, in a matter of months, if the pregnancy progresses without complications, give birth to that child.

It has been approximately nine months since the Dobbs decision was handed down, during which time states have been able to provide full protection for the unborn. However, statistical evidence indicates that the number of abortions has decreased in the majority of states that have implemented the changes (see Part One). Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that many women have chosen to carry their pregnancies to term in response to these changes.

This represents a positive development, and it can be anticipated that further instances of this nature will emerge in the years to come as the recently enacted legal protections begin to yield results. It is, however, necessary to issue a word of caution. It would be erroneous to conclude that an increase in birth rates is the most accurate and direct indicator of pro-life success.

The number of abortions may decline if there are fewer pregnancies in general.

The following section will examine the various ways in which the law affects abortion and birth rates.

If a woman is pregnant and her state has or passes a law protecting her unborn child or otherwise legally preventing her from having an abortion in her state, this should eventually result in a reduction in the number of abortions in that state and an increase in the number of births (unless the woman travels to a nearby state and has an abortion or has abortion pills illegally shipped to her home).

For a woman who is already pregnant, the law encourages her to complete the pregnancy. If this is the case, then it is reasonable to posit that, over the next nine and a half months, there should be a reduction in the number of abortions and an increase in the number of births.

It would be prudent to consider this proposition for the time being.

The law can also reduce the number of abortions performed by another means. As long as abortion is legal, women and men can view it as a contingency plan in the event of pregnancy. Should the legal framework undergo a change, this may prompt a re-evaluation of the calculations made by some individuals, with the potential for a shift in their willingness to assume the associated risk.

There is already evidence that the recently enacted legislation has resulted in some of the anticipated behavioural changes.

There has been a notable increase in the number of contraceptive procedures, vasectomies, and sterilisations.

On 1 September 2022, Planned Parenthood of New England reported a 20% increase in the number of appointments for contraceptive services over the preceding three months. This represented the conclusion of a 60% surge in requests for contraceptive services that occurred in the wake of the Dobbs ruling (News Center Maine, 9/1/22).

While comprehensive data is not yet available, multiple sources indicate that Dobbs has been associated with a notable increase in vasectomies, a surgical procedure that involves the snipping of the tubes that transport sperm to the male reproductive organ. The New York Times (12 August 2022) reported that following the Supreme Court’s decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, Google reported a significant increase in searches for ‘vasectomy’ and ‘are vasectomies reversible?’

In December, the Planned Parenthood affiliate in the Northwest, which serves Hawaii, Washington, Idaho, Indiana, and Kentucky, reported a 34% increase in the number of vasectomies performed at its clinics (Fox News, 12/6/22). One vasectomy patient informed Politico that Dobbs had “made the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy much worse” (12/2/22).

The interest in vasectomies was not the sole phenomenon to experience an increase. According to Sara Dixon, the public relations manager for Planned Parenthood’s Western Pennsylvania affiliate, there was a 2,205% increase in traffic to the national organisation’s website seeking information on sterilisation on the day Roe v. Wade was struck down. This remained at a high level of 300% or above until 21 July (Pittsburgh City Paper 11/9/22).

The necessity of these measures may be open to question, but their significance is clear: if either partner is unable to provide a functioning gamete, pregnancy cannot occur. Consequently, the impossibility of conception precludes the possibility of an abortion.

Statistical impact

The extent to which this sudden surge of interest in sterilisation was driven by panic buying or overreaction will only be revealed when the actual numbers of procedures and sales are made available in the coming months and years. Nevertheless, a few points are evident from this preliminary data.

Firstly, it can be observed that a significant proportion of the population has come to rely on abortion as a supplementary method of birth control. The availability of abortion has meant that many couples have been able to avoid making any changes to their behaviour. In light of the restrictions on access to abortion in some regions of the country, there has been a re-evaluation of the circumstances surrounding the decision to have an abortion. Some may re-evaluate their commitment to marriage or abstinence. Some may decide that they do not wish to alter the level of their sexual activity, but that they now require measures to ensure that no pregnancies occur.

Secondly, one of the potential consequences of the Dobbs decision may be a reduction in the number of births. The precise mechanism by which this may occur is unclear. One possibility is that there will be a reduction in sexual activity, either overall or among specific demographic groups. Alternatively, there may be an increase in the number of sterilisations or wider use of contraception, which could also result in fewer pairings between people who are capable of producing offspring.

These factors are of interest to statisticians and anyone attempting to monitor the impact of protective legislation. They indicate the potential for a shift in the number of abortions and the overall number of pregnancies. The former could increase, while the latter could decline. Consequently, there would be a reduction in both the number of abortions and the number of pregnancies or births.

It is possible that both abortion rates and birth rates could decline.

It seems probable that both will occur. It is probable that some women who become pregnant will, in light of the new legal circumstances, give birth. However, some women will take measures to prevent pregnancy, such as using contraceptives, undergoing sterilisation procedures, or adopting a more abstinent lifestyle.

It is possible that birth rates may increase slightly. The most striking consequence of the Dobbs decision is likely to be a significant reduction in the number of abortions. It is estimated that tens of thousands of babies will be saved from death as a result of this decision.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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