For decades Planned Parenthood has claimed that the worst way to reduce abortion is to make it illegal. The best way, according to those wise and noble sages, is by buying more birth control. Of course Planned Parenthood is a billion-dollar business that essentially sells two things: birth control and abortion. Some might call that a conflict of interest, but you can totally trust them because, you know, science. Well, it turns out Planned Parenthood’s rhetoric has been less than forthright because—and this may shock you—outlawing abortion does reduce the number of abortions. Dramatically.
If my estimated abortion total holds, 2022 will mark the largest year-over-year abortion reduction in American history. What could possibly account for this historic decline, after five straight years of steady increase? That’s an easy one. Following the fall of Roe v Wade, on June 24, 2022, abortion bans went into effect in fourteen states. So for half the year, abortion was illegal in 11% of the country. More precisely, abortion was illegal in states which accounted for roughly 11% of U.S abortions in 2020. Everything else being equal, that would predict a national abortion reduction of somewhere around five and a half percent. Of course, everything else isn’t equal. Three states (Arizona, Georgia, and Ohio) implemented partial abortion bans in 2022, and some number of mothers in abortion-free states will still manage to procure an abortion in another one. So I had to once again pore over the available data.
The reason I do this every January is because federal abortion data is perennially out of date and perennially incomplete—thanks to the ne'er-do-wells in California, Maryland, New Hampshire, and now New Jersey. The last time California bothered to count and report state abortions, I was still in college. And now I have college-aged children of my own. In other words, we’ve been flying mostly blind for a generation. When Cal Matters recently asked the California Department of Public Health why they haven’t tracked abortion data since 1997, the agency “did not provide an answer.” According to one department employee, tracking abortion is simply “not required.” Of course, paying out-of-state women to come to California for abortions isn’t required either, but that didn’t stop Governor Newsom from pledging another $200 million to abortion funding—most of which will go to “uninsured Californians and out-of-state residents.” What’s an extra $200 million when you’re already $38 billion in debt?!
To mitigate the data gap created by California et al, I collect state-by-state abortion totals throughout the year, and use them to predict a national abortion total well in advance of estimates from the Guttmacher Institute or counts from the CDC. Last January, with 33 states reporting, I estimated America’s 2021 abortion total to be 961,000. Now that all states and districts have reported (save for the aforementioned opt-outs), that estimate has been amended to 974,000. In the 11 years I’ve been doing this, my January projection has been low seven times and high four times—but it’s never changed by more than 5%, and the average discrepancy from first to last is just 1.4%. It’s been a fairly reliable system, but 2022 presents an admittedly difficult challenge. With the legality of abortion now varying from state to state, abortion trends have become increasingly divergent.
To date, 33 states have reported their 2022 abortion totals. Add them up and you get 437,869 abortions. In 2020 (the last year for which Guttmacher published state and national estimates), these 33 states accounted for a reported 52% of U.S. abortions. If we assume that these 33 states still make up 52% of America’s abortion total, then somewhere around 838,000 abortions took place in 2022. But there are two potential problems with this estimate. The first one is this. The state abortion totals reported to the CDC and the state abortion totals reported by Guttmacher don’t match. In 2020, the cumulative abortion total for the 46 states and DC that reported to the CDC was 15% lower than Guttmacher’s cumulative total for the same group. That amounts to a difference of almost 100,000 abortions, which is no small discrepancy.
So, either individual abortion clinics are shaving their numbers when reporting to the CDC, or the abortion industry is collectively inflating their numbers through the Guttmacher estimates. Which scenario is more likely? I have no idea. The abortion industry is behind both data sets, and I could make a reasonable case for either one. There are times when it suits them to make abortion seem like a rare occurrence and others when they make it out to be as common as a trip to the dentist. But because the Guttmacher total is the only one available for the entire country (again, thanks to California & Co.), that’s the one I use as a baseline—inflated though it may be. Applying this 15% adjustment to reported 2022 abortions, the new estimate comes out to 918,000. But another problem still remains.
Included in the 33 states that have reported 2022 abortion totals are 12 of the 14 states that have banned baby killing within their borders. So the early returns are disproportionately weighted towards states with dramatically-lower abortion totals. I’ve talked about this phenomenon before, namely, that abortion reporting in the average red state is much faster than in the average blue. I suspect there are three reasons for this. One, abortion thrives in the shadows. For Democrat-leaning states, which formally support abortion on demand, it makes sense to keep it out of the public eye. Euphemisms are fine, but concrete reporting threatens the status quo. Two, the percentage of children aborted in blue states is more than twice what it is in red. In 2022, the average Republican-leaning state killed 9% of its unborn children—which is bad enough—but the average Democrat-leaning state killed 19%. That’s not a great look. Three, it may simply be that red-state bureaucrats are more conscientious in general than their blue-state counterparts. It’s well established, after all, that at the individual level, conscientiousness is a predictor of conservative values while openness is a predictor of liberal ones. Is it a coincidence that all four states that don’t bother with abortion reporting are unapologetically blue? Probably not.
Some will balk at the assertion that red states operate more efficiently than blue, but consider the four states with the largest populations: California, Texas, Florida, and New York. Two red and two blue. Getting abortion counts from New York is like pulling teeth while California doesn’t report at all. Too much trouble. Florida, by contrast, has already reported their 2023 abortion total, and Texas has reported through August. Do simple reporting disparities like these help explain why masses of people from Florida and Texas are fleeing to New York and California? Or did I get that backwards? Strike that; reverse it. The mass migration we’ve seen from blue states to red may not be attributable to any single cause, but it is certainly telling.
In 2022—while crippling inflation and federal rate hikes made it prohibitively expensive for most home owners to move, more than 90,000 people left New York for Florida. Only 21,000 went the other way. That’s significant. And before you write it off to less snow and better beaches, consider that more than 102,000 Californians moved to Texas that same year (compared to just 42,000 in the opposite direction). With apologies to the Texas coastline, people who move from California to the Lone Star State aren’t looking for better weather or better surf. They’re sacrificing both for something they deem even more valuable. We can argue in theory whether California or Texas has the better policies, but in practice, the people have already voted. And it makes no difference what they should want since we can clearly see what they do want.
Pew Research reported in July of 2022 that 57% of Americans disapproved of the Supreme Court’s decision to vacate Roe. One year later, Gallup put the number at 61% while Rasmussen had it at 49%—prompting the headline: “Majority Now Approve SCOTUS Abortion Ruling.” Are Americans actually moving on this issue, or do these disparate results simply reflect the inherent unreliability of polling data or the political leanings of those conducting them? Either way, the material point is the same. The fact that Texas is now an abortion-free state has not stopped Californians from moving there in droves. Good riddance, Governor Newsom may claim in public, but in practice he’s trying to tax them on their way out the door—and for the 10 years following. Relax, said the night man. We are programmed to receive. You can check out any time you want, but your tax dollars can never leave!
Though California is one of the most resource-rich locations on the planet, their jaw-dropping $38 billion deficit may actually be a gross underestimate. The Legislative Analyst’s Office puts the figure closer to $60 billion and calculates their budget deficit will reach $68 billion by next year. Not even Texas, with a budget surplus of $32 billion, could bail them out of that one. The Tax Foundation adds that “California has led the nation for years in out migration and, recently, in outright population decline”—causing total income tax collections to fall by 25% in 2022-23. Needless to say, losing a quarter of your tax base and killing close to 30% of your unborn children is not a recipe for longterm health. And California isn’t alone.
One state in particular is emphatically breaking bad. That would be New Mexico (of course). Among reporting states, none saw a more dramatic abortion spike than the Land of Enchantment where abortions more than doubled in 2022. For every three babies born alive, two were killed in utero. No other state saw an increase even approaching this. Kansas was a distant second with an abortion total that rose by a “mere” 57%. Rounding out the top five on this ignoble list were Washington (+24%), Colorado (+22%), and Minnesota (+20%). Like New Mexico, these states border abortion-free zones and have thrown their arms open to mothers who are willing to cross state lines to secure their baby's demise. On the other side of the equation, Oklahoma saw its abortion total fall by 70%, Texas’s fell by 66%, and Wisconsin’s dropped by 50%.
In order to account for the fact that abortion trends are now moving on four separate tracks, I ran four separate simulations—one with the states that have banned abortion, one with the states that have partially banned abortion, and two with the states that haven’t. Here’s what I found. States that banned abortion following the reversal of Roe saw their 2022 abortion total fall by 58%. States that partially banned abortion saw their total fall by 11%. States that kept abortion legal and are in geographic proximity to abortion-free states (that would be Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Virginia, and Washington) saw their abortion total increase by 24%. The rest of the states that kept abortion legal saw their totals increase by 5%. I applied the 58% reduction to the two abortion-free states that have yet to report for 2022 and applied the 5 or 24% increase to the 16 abortion states that have yet to report. Based on this model—which still uses Guttmacher’s 2020 total as a baseline—somewhere around 929,000 U.S. abortions took place in 2022.
As more states report, I will replace their estimations with actual counts, but there is actually an alternate data set to consider in the meantime. #WeCount, the abortion reporting venture I mentioned back in November, took a Guttmacher-like approach to estimate state abortion totals from April 2022 through June 2023. They surveyed all known abortion providers on an ongoing basis in an effort to monitor the impact of Roe’s demise in “real time.” According to their report, they obtained firm counts for 82% of their reported abortions. The remaining 18% were imputed. Since that still leaves three months of missing data, I used each state’s April through June abortion totals to project their January through March totals. I then plugged in the resulting 2022 abortion estimates for each of the states that has yet to report a 2022 abortion count. Based on this model, somewhere around 919,000 U.S. abortions occurred in 2022—which represents a one-year decrease of 5.7%. By splitting the difference between these two models, we can reasonably posit that somewhere around 924,000 U.S. abortions took place in 2022.
So for those keeping track at home, the federal legalization of abortion in 1973 led to the largest one-year abortion increase in American history and outlawing abortion, even in just a fraction of states, led to the largest one-year abortion decrease in American history. All of which makes perfect sense. You may have noticed that the abortion industry has two lines of reasoning when it comes to public policy. Argument #1. The law doesn’t matter. People will have an abortion whether it’s legal or not. Argument #2. Even the smallest restriction or regulation may prevent a woman from getting the abortion she needs. The first argument gives moral cover to policy makers who want abortion to be legal but don’t want to be culpable for the deaths of innocent children. It allows them to pretend they’re not adding any new blood to the ledger. The second argument understands that the first is a smoke screen. Instead of saying, “enact all the pro-life restrictions you want, it won’t matter,” this argument fights tooth and nail for an abortion free-for-all. It recognizes that the easier an abortion is to procure, the more mothers will have one. If these arguments strike you as mutually exclusive, that’s probably because they are. They can’t both be true. You can’t say on the one hand that the law has no bearing on a woman’s willingness to terminate her child’s life and then say on the other that even the slightest obstacle—like a one-day waiting period—is liable to prevent a mother from going through with it. That’s called eating your cake and still having it too. If 2022 teaches us anything, it teaches us that abortion laws do matter. Quite a lot.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. Subscribe to Michael's Substack for his latest articles and recordings. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.