United States Aid Policy and Induced Abortion in sub-Saharan Africa

Journal Articles

Published By

Bulletin of the World Health Organization (published online)

September 27, 2011

Bendavid MCP BWHO online version

Objective To determine whether the Mexico City Policy, a United States government policy that prohibits funding to nongovernmental organizations performing or promoting abortion, was associated with the induced abortion rate in sub-Saharan Africa.

Methods Women in 20 African countries who had induced abortions between 1994 and 2008 were identified in Demographic and Health Surveys. A country’s exposure to the Mexico City Policy was considered high (or low) if its per capita assistance from the United States for family planning and reproductive health was above (or below) the median among study countries before the policy’s reinstatement in 2001. Using logistic regression and a difference-in-difference design, the authors estimated the differential change in the odds of having an induced abortion among women in high exposure countries relative to low exposure countries when the policy was reinstated.

Findings The study included 261 116 women aged 15 to 44 years. A comparison of 1994–2000 with 2001–2008 revealed an adjusted odds ratio for induced abortion of 2.55 for high-exposure countries versus low-exposure countries under the policy (95% confidence interval, CI: 1.76–3.71). There was a relative decline in the use of modern contraceptives in the high-exposure countries over the same time period.

Conclusion The induced abortion rate in sub-Saharan Africa rose in high-exposure countries relative to low-exposure countries when the Mexico City Policy was re- introduced. Reduced financial support for family planning may have led women to substitute abortion for contraception.Regardless of one’s views about abortion, the findings may have important implications for public policies governing abortion.

Publication Materials
Complete (online first version) Download pdf

Share This Publication