How are restrictive abortion statutes associated with unintended teen birth?

J Adolesc Health. 2010 Aug;47(2):160-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2010.01.003. Epub 2010 Mar 20.


Purpose: Legislation that restricts abortion access decreases abortion. It is less well understood whether these statutes affect unintended birth. Given recent increases in teen pregnancy and birth, we examined the relationship between legislation that restricts abortion access and unintended births among adolescent women.

Methods: Using 2000-2005 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System data, we examined the relationship between adolescent pregnancy intention and policies affecting abortion access: mandatory waiting periods, parental involvement laws, and Medicaid funding restrictions. Logistic regression controlled for individual characteristics, state-level factors, geographic regions, and time trends. Subgroup analyses were done for racial, ethnic, and insurance groups.

Results: In our multivariate model, minors in states with mandatory waiting periods were more than two times as likely to report an unintended birth, with even higher risk among blacks, Hispanics, and teens receiving Medicaid. Medicaid funding restrictions were associated with higher rates of unwanted birth among black teens. Parental involvement laws were associated with a trend toward more unwanted births in white minors and fewer in Hispanic minors.

Conclusions: Mandatory waiting periods are associated with higher rates of unintended birth in teens, and funding restrictions may especially affect black adolescents. Policies limiting access to abortion appear to affect the outcomes of unintended teen pregnancy. Subsequent research should clarify the magnitude of such effects, and lead to policy changes that successfully reduce unintended teen births.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Government Regulation*
  • Health Services Accessibility / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Medicaid / statistics & numerical data
  • Parental Consent / statistics & numerical data
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / statistics & numerical data*
  • State Government*
  • United States
  • Young Adult