Abortion Policy and Fertility Outcomes: The Eastern European Experience

Phillip B. Levine, Wellesley College
Douglas Staiger, Dartmouth College

Abstract

Theory suggests that abortion restrictions will influence fertility outcomes such as pregnancy, abortion, and birth. This paper exploits the variations in abortion policy generated in Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s to examine their impact on fertility outcomes. We distinguish among countries with severe, moderate, and few restrictions on abortion access and examine the impact of changes across all three categories. As we hypothesize, the results indicate that countries that changed from very restrictive to liberal abortion laws experienced a large reduction in births. Changes from modest restrictions to abortion available on request, however, led to no such change in births despite large increases in abortions, which indicates that pregnancies rose in response to more liberal abortion availability. This evidence is generally consistent with the situation that was brought about by changes in abortion access in the United States.