The Impact of Legal Abortion on Maternal Health: Looking to the Past to Inform the Present
90 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2021 Last revised: 4 Apr 2022
Date Written: September 1, 2021
From 1959 to 1980, abortion-related mortality declined by 97%, and maternal mortality fell by 86%. In this study, we question whether the legalization of abortion over 1969-1973 explains a portion of this maternal mortality decline. Our results suggest that legal abortion reduced non-white maternal mortality by 30-40%, with little impact on overall or white maternal mortality. We also find that early state-level legalizations were crucial, and explain more of the observed mortality decline than the Roe v. Wade decision itself. Overall, our findings suggest that legal abortion substantially improved maternal health for disadvantaged groups.
Funding Information: None to declare.
Declaration of Interests: Dr. Pesko reports separate funding exceeding $10,000 over the past three years from the American Cancer Society, University of Kentucky’s Institute for the Study of Free Enterprise, and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Pesko is an executive board member of the Tobacco Online Policy Seminar. Dr. Hoehn-Velasco reports separate funding from the National Institutes of Health. All others have nothing to declare.
Keywords: Abortion, Legal Abortion, Maternal Mortality, Roe v. Wade, Maternal Health
JEL Classification: I18, J13, K38, H75
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation