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Fam Plann Perspect. 2000 Jan-Feb;32(1):4-13.

The impact of Mississippi's mandatory delay law on the timing of abortion.

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  • 1Baruch College, New York, USA.



Mississippi mandates that a woman seeking an abortion must first receive, in person, information about the fetus and alternatives to abortion. She must then wait at least 24 hours before having an abortion. It is not clear how such mandatory delay requirements affect the timing during pregnancy at which abortion occurs.


The data for analysis, from the Mississippi Department of Health, are 34,748 abortions obtained by residents in the six-year period surrounding the law's enactment in August 1992 (i.e., from August 1989 through July 1995). The records were stratified by location of the nearest provider, so abortions to women whose nearest provider is in-state comprised the "treatment group" (N = 28,975), while abortions to women whose nearest provider is in a neighboring state with no such law comprised the "control group" (N = 5,773). Probit regressions were used to assess effects on the likelihood of a second-trimester abortion, and ordinary least-squares regressions were used to determine effects on gestational age at the time of the abortion.


After enactment of the law, the proportion of second-trimester procedures increased by 53% (from 7.5% of abortions to 11.5%) among women whose closest provider is in-state, but it increased by only 8% (from 10.5% to 11.3%) among women whose closest provider is out-of-state. And although the overall abortion rate declined among women in the treatment group over the period (from 11.3 procedures per 1,000 women aged 15-44 to 9.9), the rate of second-trimester procedures increased among these women (from 0.8 per 1,000 women aged 15-44 to 1.1). The law was independently associated with delays in obtaining an abortion: Once the law went into effect and net of all covariates, the proportion of second-trimester abortions increased by nearly three percentage points more among women living closest to an in-state provider than among those living closest to an out-of-state provider. The law increased the mean gestational age of the fetus at the time of the procedure by approximately four days. Women who live closest to abortion providers in other states were relatively unaffected by the law.


The proportion of abortions performed later in pregnancy will probably increase if more states impose mandatory delay laws with in-person counseling requirements.

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