How do individuals change their behavior when abortion access increases? In this innovative book, economist Phillip Levine uses economic analysis to consider this question, comparing abortion to a form of insurance. Like insurance, he contends, abortion provides protection from downside risk. A pregnant woman who would otherwise give birth to an unwanted child has the option to abort. On the other hand, the availability of this option may increase the likelihood of a pregnancy in the first place. In a very restrictive abortion environment, few women would choose to have an abortion; legalizing abortion would reduce unwanted births. But if abortion becomes readily available, it may cause individuals to increase their sexual activity and/or reduce their use of contraception, Levine contends. Women will become pregnant more frequently, but will abort those pregnancies. Therefore, these abortions will not reduce unwanted births. Levine's analysis suggests that the manner in which individuals change their behavior depends on the extent to which abortion is accessible.
He supports these assertions using data from both the United States and Eastern Europe, comparing areas that have restricted access to abortion services with those that have liberalized access. Using sound economic analysis, Sex and Consequences goes beyond the ideological arguments that frequently dominate the abortion debate, lending a new perspective to this controversial subject.
Phillip B. Levine is Professor of Economics at Wellesley College and a Research Associate in the National Bureau of Economic Research.
LIST OF FIGURES ix LIST OF TABLES xiii PREFACE xv ACKNOWLEDGMENTS xvii CHAPTER ONE Introduction 1 CHAPTER TWO Abortion Law and Practice 9 CHAPTER THREE Economic Models of Fertility and Abortion 39 CHAPTER FOUR Methods for Evaluating the Impact of Policy Changes 65 CHAPTER FIVE The Impact of Abortion Legalization 77 CHAPTER SIX The Impact of Restrictions on Abortion Access 107 CHAPTER SEVEN Abortion Policy in an International Perspective 133 CHAPTER EIGHT Unfinished Business 158 CHAPTER NINE Summary and Implications for Abortion Policy 186 NOTES 195 REFERENCES 201 INDEX 211