The Relationship between Abortion Liberalization and Sexual Behavior: International Evidence

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Economic theory predicts that abortion laws affect sexual behavior since they change the marginal cost of having risky sex. We estimate the impact of abortion laws on sexual behavior by reported gonorrhea incidence. Our data panel includes 41 countries for which consistent gonorrhea data are available for 1980–2000. Compared with laws permitting abortion only to save the pregnant woman’s life or her physical health, the switch to more liberal abortion laws is associated with large increases in reported gonorrhea incidence. Our results help explain why birth rates do not decline at the same rate abortions increase when laws are liberalized.

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American Law & Economics Review