Due to COVID-19, 33 states banned elective medical procedures, and 13 of these states included surgical abortions. The paper presented in this ZEW Research seminar collected street addresses of abortion clinics and linked them to SafeGraph’s data on visitor counts. The authors found at least a 6 percent decrease in clinic visits in February-May 2020 versus 2019. States that banned elective procedures or imposed other measures (i.e., stay-at-home orders) saw a substantial additional decrease. There was also a significant additional decrease from explicit surgical abortions bans, driven entirely by clinics that provided surgical abortions. Additionally, elective procedure bans reduce abortion clinic visits in both states hostile to abortion and supportive of abortion, suggesting the results would still hold in some states in a post-Roe U.S. The paper estimates that the decrease in foot traffic over these four months reduced abortions by 6 percent in 2020 relative to 2019, or approximately 35,000 fewer abortions.
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