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Mexico City Policy linked to 40% increase in abortions in sub-Saharan African countries reliant on US foreign aid – expert comment

A new study published in The Lancet Global Health measures the impact of the Mexico City policy between 1995 and 2014.

Researchers found that abortion rates rose substantially among women in sub-Saharan African countries with high exposure to the policy relative to countries less exposed. In addition, the use of modern contraception declined and pregnancies increased. This pattern of more frequent abortions and lower contraceptive use was reversed after the policy was rescinded. Authors suggest this shows a causal effect.

Responding to the findings, Cicely Marston, Professor of Public Health from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “These findings are in line with past evidence and do not come as a surprise. We published a study in 2003 showing that over time where fertility is constant, rising use of modern contraception in any given country had always been associated with declining levels of abortion – we found no exceptions to this. To achieve a small family size, individuals obviously have to avoid or end unwanted pregnancies.

“The Mexico City Policy has reduced contraceptive services, and the increase in abortions reported in this study is in line with the existing evidence which predicts that where contraception goes down, abortion goes up. These findings should inspire global efforts to ensure that there are high quality contraception services for everyone who needs them so that every pregnancy is wanted.

“The current version of the Mexico City Policy is even more restrictive and may mean that there are now even more unwanted pregnancies and abortions – which in many countries are illegal and unsafe – putting even more lives at risk.”