A new survey commissioned by a prominent conservative evangelical group found that abortion rates dropped an average of 13.6 percent in states that passed laws requiring that minor girls either notify their parents or get their consent before medically terminating a pregnancy.
The study for the Family Research Council was conducted by Michael New, a University of Alabama political science professor and senior FRC fellow. And it comes as abortion, as well as the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, has emerged as a more prominent campaign issue since the vice presidential nomination of Republican Sarah Palin, who opposes the procedure even in cases of rape and incest.
In fact, the Susan B. Anthony List, a national organization devoted to the election of antiabortion women to Congress, used New's findings to take aim at Democratic nominee Barack Obama and his running mate, Joseph Biden, both of whom support legalized abortion, and to make a case for proposed federal legislation that would make it a felony for a nonparent to take a minor across state lines for an abortion.
"The contrast between presidential tickets couldn't be greater," says SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser. Palin "passionately defended Alaska's parental consent law," she says, while the Democrats "consistently vote to undermine" such requirements.
New analyzed national data from 1985 to 1999, compared the types of state parental involvement laws, and attempted to assess their effect on abortion rates. In the period studied, the overall abortion rate fell 50 percent, New says, suggesting that "parental involvement laws are an important causal factor" in the decline. He says his most dramatic finding was the drop in the rate of abortions among minor girls. Between 1985 and 1999, the abortion rate for girls between the ages of 13 and 17 dropped from 13.5 for every 1,000 girls, to 6.5 per 1,000.
Thirty-six states currently have parental involvement laws, ranging from requiring minor girls contemplating an abortion to notify a parent, to compelling them to obtain consent from both parents - currently the law in three states. The states with the most stringent consent requirements, New says, have been the "most effective in reducing abortion rates among minors."
New says his findings, which the FRC has characterized as the first comprehensive nationwide analysis of abortion rates among minors, has "clear policy implications" and provides a "unique opportunity" to influence debate on the proposed federal legislation that would make it a crime to take a minor to another state to avoid parental intervention, and to highlight the importance of future U.S. Supreme Court appointments.
The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed states to require parental consent or notification if a minor is seeking an abortion but has also held that minor girls living in an abusive household must have the opportunity to bypass parental involvement and appeal to a judge for permission to have the procedure.
Meanwhile, the National Institute for Reproductive Health plans to push back on antiabortion efforts with what it has characterized as a multimillion-dollar ad campaign starting in October in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Wisconsin. The ads show a woman behind bars and asserts that 21 states would ban abortions if the high court overturned Roe v. Wade. And yesterday, Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America told U.S. News that Republican nominee John McCain's pick of Palin "only reinforces how out of touch he is with the vast majority of Americans who oppose allowing politicians to interfere with women's personal, private medical decisions."
"On choice-related issues, the advantage goes to Obama," Keenan says.