The Effect of Abortion Liberalization on Sexual Behavior: International Evidence
Most industrialized countries have increased access to abortion over the past 30 years. Economic theory predicts that abortion laws affect sexual behavior since they change the marginal cost of having risky sex. We use gonorrhea incidence as a metric of risky sexual behavior. Using a panel of 41 North American, European and Central Asian countries over the period 1980-2000, we estimate the impact of abortion law reform on risky sex. Compared to the most restrictive legislation that permits abortion only to save the pregnant woman’s life or her physical health, more liberal abortion laws are associated with at least thirty additional gonorrhea cases per 100,000 individuals. The marginal effect of laws which make abortion available on request is larger than the effect of laws which allow abortion on socioeconomic and mental health grounds. Our results are robust against a set of alternative sample constructions and model specifications.
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