Published Wednesday, August 3, 2005, 9:14 p.m. in USA Today

'Bans' aren't absolute

By John R. Lott, Jr.*

Laura Vanderkam (The Forum, July 27) is correct that few abortions would be stopped by overturning Roe v. Wade, but the argument is even stronger than she thinks.

Even for the states that she lists as possibly re-adopting a ban, a total ban did not exist before Roe. States with "bans" still had life or health exceptions for the mother, which were often interpreted quite liberally by many doctors. Many allowed "mental health" considerations. In fact, according to my research of abortion data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even among the four Southern states that she notes could adopt a new ban, all of them (Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Georgia) allowed at least some abortions before 1973. The most surprising fact is that many states that allowed abortions only when the life or health of the mother was endangered before 1973 had higher abortion rates than did the states where abortion was legal.

John R. Lott Jr., resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute, Washington

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