A latest study published in the Lancet Global Health journal has revealed that there is an increase in abortions in parts of sub-Saharan Africa by 40 percent.
According to researchers the increase in the number of abortions is linked to a U.S. government policy that restricts international aid to NGOs that support abortion.
Known as the “Mexico City Policy” or the “global gag rule”, the policy prevents U.S. federal funding from being used overseas.
Such funding was meant to support any organisation that performs or provides counselling on abortion.
The policy has been enacted and rescinded along American party lines in the first week of every new US presidential administration since first announced in 1984.
The policy was reinstated by President Donald Trump in 2017 after becoming president.
Impact of restriction
The researchers said “the restrictions imposed by the policy are reflected in a reduction in modern contraceptive use (14% lower prevalence of modern contraception use), an increase in pregnancies (12%), and an increase in abortions (40%) among women living in countries highly affected by the policy during periods when the Mexico City Policy was enacted.”
The study looked at induced abortion, contraception use and pregnancy rates between 1995 and 2014.
Data from 26 sub-Saharan African countries over two U.S. policy transitions – from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, and from Bush to Barack Obama were observed.
They also compared rates in countries exposed to a greater or lesser extent to the policy due to reliance on aid.
“Our findings suggest how a U.S. policy that aims to restrict federal funding for abortion services can lead, unintentionally, to more – and probably riskier – abortions in poor countries,” said Nina Brooks, a researcher at Stanford University who co-led the work.
Stanford University’s Eran Bendavid, who co-led the study said “Because abortions are an important cause of maternal mortality, the increase in abortion uptake might also increase maternal deaths — and possibly disproportionately given that abortions under the policy could be less safe.”
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The researchers are urging the United States and global donor agencies to recognise the health of mothers as “a global priority”.
They have warned that the Mexico City Policy’s knock-on effects could add to maternal death rates.