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Study finds fewer Michigan adults want to have children after Dobbs abortion ruling

Photo collage by Rick Brewer
Maria Oswalt / Gayatri Malhotra via Unsplash

A recent study from Michigan State University researchers found fewer adults in Michigan reported a desire to have children following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Researchers used responses from the State of the State Survey to track the attitudes of Michigan adults. One of the sample groups gave its responses before the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which brought an end to federal protections for abortion rights in 2022. The other group responded after the ruling. In all, 4,500 people were surveyed.

According to the peer-reviewed study published in the PLOS ONE journal, 21% of Michigan adults expressed they were "child-free" before the Supreme Court decision, indicating they did not want to have children. Following Dobbs, 26% identified as "child-free."

Researchers note the study is observational and does not prove that the court decision caused a change in attitudes.

"We definitely can't conclude that the legal change just caused people to change their mind about having children," said Jennifer Watling Neal, an MSU professor of psychology who co-authored the study. "We can conclude that the total number of adults who never wanted children was higher after the Dobbs decision."

Watling Neal said the state's adults were around 33% more likely to not want children after the Dobbs decision than before. The study also found a decline in parents who don't have children yet but were planning to have children in the future.

“It suggests that, at least, restricting reproductive health care may have some implications for people's choices, whether or not they want to have kids,” Watling Neal added. "Restricting those things could lead people to have smaller families and to not have kids at all."

The study indicated other factors could be responsible for shaping attitudes on raising children, like increased costs of living and inflation.

Following the Dobbs decision, Michigan voters added abortion rights to the state constitution through a ballot proposal in the 2022 elections. The midterms saw historic wins for Democrats in the state legislature, allowing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to sign a repeal of the state's 1931 abortion ban and to add protections for the procedure last year.

Watling Neal said some of the adults in the study were surveyed after the 2022 elections. She added she would have liked to have collected more data in 2023 to see how state legislative actions would have impacted the numbers.

Copyright 2024 WKAR Public Media. To see more, visit WKAR Public Media.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.