Panel Paper: Does Access to Contraception Affect Timing of Abortions?

Friday, November 7, 2014 : 8:50 AM
Enchantment Ballroom F (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Inna Cintina, University of Hawaii and Petru S. Stoianovici, Charles River Associates
Everything else constant, having access to reproductive health care services (including abortion services) and to contraception (including emergency contraception (EC)) may reduce the incidence of unwanted pregnancy. After more than a decade of controversy, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gradually made EC available over-the-counter for women of all ages. Specifically, in 2006, the FDA lifted the EC prescription requirement for women 18 years of age or older, and in 2009 the age requirement was lowered to 17 years. These policy changes could be treated as natural experiments: women who are able to obtain the drug without a prescription face lower overall EC cost relative to women who still need a prescription to gain access to the drug. I use the variation in the EC availability across time and age groups to identify whether, after controlling for other relevant factors, the composition of abortions among women who have access to EC without a prescription differs from that of women who were required to have a doctor’s prescription for EC. The potential effect of EC on the timing of abortion is ambiguous, as changes in the cost of EC can affect several stages of the fertility decision process, including changes in the sexual behavior. Therefore, the identification of the effect (if any) is an empirical issue. I evaluate the effect of EC on the timing of abortion by using individual level abortion data for a sample of West Coast states between 2004 and 2010. Preliminary results indicate no change in the probability of the late-term abortions, which represent about 10% of all abortions, in the years after the FDA policy change. Yet, over the same time frame, the average length of gestation at termination has increased, implying a relative decrease in the number of abortions early in the pregnancy. (JEL: J13, J18; I18)