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According to the following article, the oft quoted result that abortion is higher in countries where it is legal is misleading:

The obvious problem with The Lancet study is that many of the countries where abortion is illegal are located in Africa or Latin America. These countries have much higher poverty rates and a higher incidence of other social pathologies which may increase the perceived need for abortion. Douthat shrewdly points out that to properly analyze variations in abortion policy, similar regions have to be compared. For instance, in the United States red states, which tend to have more pro-life laws, have lower abortion rates than blue states. Additionally, Catholic and Catholic-influenced countries like France, Italy, Spain, and Germany tend to have somewhat more restrictions on abortion and somewhat lower abortion rates than Scandinavian nations.

Does banning abortions decrease the number of abortions?

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A quick commentary. The quoted passage confuses correlation and causation. –  Sklivvz Nov 3 '12 at 9:33
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@Sklivvz: Actually, looking at the article again, he doesn't make the argument that banning abortion decreases abortions. He only claims that the Lancet study fails to account for the results listed above. Nonetheless, the argument that banning abortion increases/decreases the number of abortions is a claim made often enough that I shouldn't need to demonstrate notability –  Casebash Nov 3 '12 at 9:39
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@nico: I don't quite understand your position. Your first sentence states that banning abortion would drastically decrease the abortion rate, but your second sentence seems to argue people would just cross the border to have an abortion and so it wouldn't have an effect –  Casebash Nov 3 '12 at 9:57
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@Casebash he meant that it would have the effect of lowering it locally and increasing it where it's legal, having no overall effect on the global rate. Surely there's some effect in that direction, although it needs to seen whether it's significant at all. –  Sklivvz Nov 3 '12 at 10:13
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I'm not sure the count of abortions is anything like the most important issue. What matters is the net harm caused from the combination of abortion, illegal abortion, unwanted pregnancy and all the other interrelated factors. Countries that adopt a pragmatic policy (unlike the black or white debate in the US) tend to allow some abortion because the harms of illegal abortion are considered worse than the lesser evil of some legal abortion. –  matt_black Nov 3 '12 at 17:05
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1 Answer

From the various researches found, we can draw the conclusion that

Yes, it does decrease abortion rate in the place where it is banned


Education, policies clearly influence

We can find a lot of work regarding the influence of good sexual education explaining lower abortion rate in some countries such as Netherlands. It is truly intuitive to believe it, but research demonstrate it. In 2003, a study over abortion data of the United States from 1974-1988 induced that abortion policies influenced greatly the rate. It concluded that:

Restrictions on Medicaid funding for abortion are correlated with lower abortion rates in-state and higher rates among nearby states. [...] A larger number of abortion providers in a state increases the abortionrate, primarily through inducing cross-state travel.

However, it does not directly answer your question since it does not imply the state banned abortion.

Legalization and its effect on the long term

We can find a lot of research notes and papers on the abortion rate trend in the various countries of the world. All of them draw the conclusion that the trend is downward in the majority. In particular, some draw that conclusion:

Legalization of abortion and access to abortion services do not lead to increased reliance on abortion for fertility control in the long term; in developed countries with these conditions, the predominant trend in abortion rates has been downward.

So at least, we know that legalization does not spread the use of abortion as a contraceptive method if alternatives exist.


Effect of the ban in United state

As we said, the legalization does not increase the number of women that want to rely on abortion at a certain moment of their life (at least over the long term). That said, we could conclude that for similar education (on contraception, religion), the rate should more or less the same inside a country. The book "Abortion Rates in the United States: The Influence of Opinion and Policy" study the various researches published on the subject to draw few conclusion. First, public opinion is the most influential factor between state were it is legal. Second, reported abortion number were much lower before legal abortion. Third, illegal abortion increase dramatically the chance of dying.

There is no clear statement or proof that illegal abortion result in lower abortion rate (since we cannot count unreported abortion). But from known statistics, from the facts on influential factors we can draw the conclusion that yes it decreases the abortion rate in the place were it is illegal. However, as stated in the beginning, it might artificially increase the abortion rate in the country or state beside where it is legal.

Hope that my little literature review has helped.

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"In developed countries with these conditions, the predominant trend in abortion rates has been downward" - I think you've misunderstood the statement. The article is claiming that when a "wide range of conceptive methods are available, use of abortion is likely to fall" and that even with abortion being legalised, overall rate may decrease. That is quite different from claiming that legalising abortion, by itself, doesn't influence rates or even causes it to fall –  Casebash Nov 7 '12 at 22:36
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To clarify, I don't think your restatement represents their position: "So at least, we know that legalization does not spread the use of abortion as a contraceptive method. From that, we can induce that if X women want to use abortion, legalization will not lead it to X+e nor banning it will lead it to X-e." –  Casebash Nov 7 '12 at 22:37
    
Yes, my statement is misleading. I will correct that part. However, I did understood that a condition "contraception methods available" was necessary for the claim to be truee –  Zonata Nov 7 '12 at 22:42
    
Their claim is that when abortion is legalised and contraceptives become widely available the total effect is to decrease abortions. They don't make any claims about legalising abortion decreasing abortions in any circumstances –  Casebash Nov 7 '12 at 23:00
    
Yes, that is not the meaning of my statement. It means that whether the abortion is legal or not does not influence the number of women wanting to rely on it. –  Zonata Nov 7 '12 at 23:43
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