The Environment of Reproductive Rights Doesn’t Skip a Beat: How Do State’s Social Composition Impact State Policymakers’ Passage of Fetal Heartbeat Laws?

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Reproductive rights have been historically regulated by federal or state laws, various state legislation exists that prohibit women from abortion access. Fetal heartbeat laws (FHLs) have increasingly gained passage in states since the first fetal heartbeat law was passed in (2013). The objective of this study is to determine how do states’ social composition impacts state policymakers’ to create passage of fetal heartbeat laws, using a survival analysis composed of the state’s social composition collected from all 50 states in the U.S. from 2010 – 2021. This study offers background on the environment of reproductive rights, the impact of fetal heartbeat laws, and state-level variation of abortion policy. Michael Spence’s Signaling Theory and Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic capital are used to explain how state policymakers’ create passage of FHLs. The state’s social composition contains the state-level sociodemographic factors of race/ethnicity, the population share that identifies as female and of the reproductive age between (15 – 44), the population share is religiously affiliated Catholic or Evangelical Protestant, state government partisan control (e.g., Governor, House, Senate). A fetal heartbeat timeline was constructed from (2010 – 2021), and links to the law were sought out to help assess the effect of fetal heartbeat laws. Primary and secondary sources contributed to the data collection. A survival analysis (time–event) of all 50 states from (2010 – 2021) with the “event” occurring as the passage of fetal heartbeat laws was implemented. The Cox proportional hazard ratio will demonstrate the risk of fetal heartbeat laws passed by hazard risk of state’s social composition factors. The survival analysis found state governments that were controlled by Republican trifectas were a hazard risk of passing fetal heartbeat laws. State’s that were composed of mixed control (divided control) were more likely to pass abortion legislation when controlled by state legislative chambers (House of Representatives, Senate) that were Republican-controlled.

Policymaking, Reproductive Rights, State - level, Signaling Theory, Symbolic Capital