Abortion Rates in the United States

The Influence of Opinion and Policy

By Matthew E. Wetstein

Subjects: Health Care
Series: SUNY series in Health Care Politics and Policy
Paperback : 9780791428481, 153 pages, February 1996
Hardcover : 9780791428474, 153 pages, February 1996

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Table of contents





1. The Link Between Public Opinion and Policy

2. The Supreme Court and Abortion Policy

3. The Impact of Policy Change: Courts and Legislatures

4. The Structure and Stability of Attitudes on Abortion

5. State Public Policy: Opinion and Abortion Policy

6. Abortion Policy in the United States

7. Explaining Abortion Rates in the United States

8. Conclusion



Demonstrates that individual state policies on abortion closely reflect public opinion in that state and affect abortion rates, whereas national policy and policy changes have no real effect on abortion rates.


Few studies make a direct connection between public opinion, public policies, and the behavior of the mass public. This book demonstrates for the first time that such a connection can be found when examining abortion politics in the United States. Using public opinion data for all fifty states, the author demonstrates that state policies to restrict abortion closely match the preferences of the mass public. More important, he shows a profound link between public opinion on abortion and abortion rates in the United States. Where state publics are more permissive in their attitudes toward abortion, state policies tend to be more permissive, and rates of abortion utilization tend to be higher.

The book also explores the impact of policy changes on abortion rates. Using sophisticated statistical techniques, the author examines policy changes at both the state and national level. The analysis points to an intriguing paradox: national policy changes have no real effect on abortion rates, yet state policy changes do. This finding suggests that the states are the place to look for significant changes in abortion utilization in response to policy.

Matthew E. Wetstein is Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at University of the Pacific and the Department of Politics and Public Administration at California State University, Stanislaus.


"Abortion Rates in the United States features a comprehensive treatment of an important policy topic in a single volume and incorporates sophisticated methodologies to advance our understanding of the dynamics of abortion policy. It will be received as a major advance in abortion policy studies. " — Keith J. Mueller, University of Nebraska Medical Center

"The best feature of this book is its synthesis of the research on abortion rates and access to abortion in the years after Roe v. Wade. Anyone doing research on this subject in coming years will turn to this work as a standard resource. " — D. Grier Stephenson, Jr. , Franklin and Marshall College