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The Role of Restrictive Abortion Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use

Colorado College Working Paper No. 2011-03

26 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2011  

Amanda J. Felkey

Cornell University

Kristina M. Lybecker

Colorado College - Department of Economics & Business

Date Written: May 13, 2011


Following the legalization of abortion in the United States, scholars have studied its impact on a wide variety of factors including women’s educational choices and labor force decisions, abortion rates, and most controversially, crime. Economists have also investigated the determinants of state abortion restrictions across the United States, exploring the importance of demographic characteristics, locational availability, and the strength of interest advocacy groups. Notably absent from the existing literature is an examination of the impact of legalized abortion and the restrictions of its use on the decision to use oral contraceptives. Earlier work has established that states with more lenient laws regarding access to contraceptive services by minors have greater pill use, but the impact of the legal framework surrounding abortion restrictions has not been examined. The focus of this paper is an analysis of the possibility that variation in state abortion availability, proxied by legislation restricting a woman’s reproductive rights, may generate variation in the use of birth control pills. It is reasonable to expect that without the option of terminating a pregnancy (or in states where the cost of doing so is higher), that oral contraceptives would be more widely utilized. Our findings reveal that restrictions on abortion funding have a significant and positive impact on a woman’s decision to use the pill. In addition, women who live in states with higher abortion rates, a likely representation of the ease of terminating an unwanted pregnancy and proxy for the entirety of abortion restrictions, are less likely to use the pill. These results indicate that women are forward thinking when making their contraceptive decisions, at least relative to abortion legislation. If individuals are forward thinking enough such that legislation and policy governing the consequences for today's actions can affect today's decisions, then there are important policy implications for increasing health outcomes.

Keywords: birth control, oral contraception, the pill, abortion legislation

JEL Classification: D1, D81, I18, J13

Suggested Citation

Felkey, Amanda J. and Lybecker, Kristina M., The Role of Restrictive Abortion Legislation in Explaining Variation in Oral Contraceptive Use (May 13, 2011). Colorado College Working Paper No. 2011-03. Available at SSRN: or

Amanda J. Felkey

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Kristina M. Lybecker (Contact Author)

Colorado College - Department of Economics & Business ( email )

14 E Cache La Poudre Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
United States
719-389-6445 (Phone)
719-389-6927 (Fax)

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