Summary: Legalized Abortions Led to an Increase in STD Cases

Legalized abortion may account for as much as one-third of the average disease incidence (specifically with an increase on gonorrhea and syphilis).

  • In a report written by Jonathan Klick and Thomas Stratmann, of George Mason University, the two authors attempted to study the many effects that legalized abortions have had on the spread on sexually transmitted diseases. While many articles and studies examine the characteristics of those people who are most likely to contract STDs, very little research has been done on how changes in the cost of sexual practices affect STDs. Medical researchers typically focus on general changes in social attitudes, changing demographics, and changing public health practices when investigating factors involved in STD incidence, while disregarding the importance of incentives for individual behavior. According to Klick and Stratmann, the risk of unwanted pregnancy represents one of the major costs of sexual activity. When abortion was legalized in a number of states during the late 1960s and early 1970s (and nationally with the 1973 Supreme Court case of Roe vs. Wade), this cost was reduced as women gained the option of terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Through their studies, Klick and Stratmann predict that abortion legalization has led to an increase in sexual activity, accompanied by an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. Using the Centers for Disease Control data on the incidence of gonorrhea and syphilis by state, Klick and Stratmann tested the hypothesis that judicial and legislative decisions to legalize abortions have led to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases. With this data, they found that gonorrhea and syphilis incidences are significantly and positively correlated with abortion legalization. According to their estimates, abortion legalization may account for as much as one-third of the average sexually transmitted disease incidence (specifically, an increase of gonorrhea by up to 35% and an increase in syphilis by up to 38%).

    1The Effect of Abortion Legalization on the Incidence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Jonathan Klick & Thomas Stratmann, George Mason University, April 4, 2002, pp. 1-20.

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