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Minors' Behavioral Responses to Parental Involvement Laws: Delaying Abortion Until Age 18


  • Silvie Colman,

    Corresponding author
    1. Silvie Colman is researcher, Mathematica Policy Research, Princeton, NJ.
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  • Ted Joyce

    1. Ted Joyce is professor, Department of Economics and Finance, Baruch College, City University of New York; academic director, Baruch College/Mount Sinai School of Medicine Graduate Program in Health Care Administration, New York; and research associate, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA.
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CONTEXT: Prior research on the effect of laws mandating parental involvement in minors' abortions has failed to examine an important behavioral response to such laws: Older teenagers may delay an abortion until age 18; for some, this may mean terminating a pregnancy after the first trimester.

METHODS: Statewide data were obtained on abortions in Texas in 1997–2003. Analysis of relative rate ratios with narrowly defined comparison groups was used to evaluate the association between Texas's parental notification law and the occurrence of second-trimester abortions among minors who have responded to the law by delaying abortion until age 18.

RESULTS: : In the four years after the law went into effect, the proportion of abortions obtained at age 18 increased by six percentage points among minors who conceived at age 17 years and eight months, and by 13 points among those who did so at 17 years and nine months. As a result, the second-trimester abortion rate of these groups combined increased by 21%; by contrast, there was no evidence of an increase in this rate among younger minors, for whom delaying the abortion until age 18 was not feasible.

CONCLUSIONS: Some minors postpone abortion until the second or even third trimester of pregnancy to circumvent parental notification requirements. Given the greater costs of and medical risks associated with late-term abortions, policymakers should not ignore this behavior.