The Impact of a Restrictive Abortion Policy on Newborns’ Health

Gábor Hajdu, MTA-ELTE Peripato Comparative Social Dynamics Research Group
Tamás Hajdu, Institute of Economics, Research Centre for Economic and Regional Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences

In this research, we examine the consequences of the restrictive Hungarian abortion policy introduced in 1974. Following the law change that restricted the access to legally permissible abortions the number of induced abortions decreased by 70 000, whereas the number of live births increased by 30 000 between 1973 and 1974. We analyze the impacts of the law change on the health at birth indicators of the affected children.

Using large-scale, individual-level administrative datasets of the Hungarian Central Statistical Office (the registry of live births, the registry of induced abortions, the registry of infant mortality) we estimate the effects by comparing children born just before and after the law change. In other words, we rely on data of children born within a short timespan around the law change. In this way, we are able to rule out the effect of other (unobservable) time trends and other potential behavioral responses to the law change, and we can draw causal inference. Using socio-economic background variables of the parents that are available in the live birth database (e.g. education, occupation, age, the pregnancy history of the mother), we can control for a composition effect as well. Beside the simple difference strategy described above, we also rely on a difference-in-difference strategy and placebo regressions.

Since most of the evidence on the impact of the access to abortion on health in early life comes from the USA, this study adds to the literature by studying the effects for a country outside the United States. In a wider perspective, our research is also related to the literature on the impact of the access to contraceptive technologies.

Presented in Session 17: Health Aspects of Birth and Parenthood