I’ve been reading a lot lately about Planned Parenthood, legislative initiatives that impact the foreign and domestic landscapes, and how abortion is treated with respect to a policy standpoint. Abortion is practices all across the world, but in poorer countries where safe access is severely limited, there’s a rise in maternal mortality. You can check out Guttmacher’s 2011 article, Abortion Incidence and Access to Services In the United States, 2008, the World Health Organization’s 2006 article, Unsafe abortion: the preventable pandemic*, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation’s 2006 article, Death and Denial: Abortion and Poverty to gain more insight into the matter.
But this post is less about the nuances of the abortion debate, and more to serve as a case study. Back in 1984, President Reagan passed the Mexico City Policy, which prohibits any U.S. funding from being used abroad to give access to, provide, coerce, or refer patients out to have an abortion. This law has been repeatedly reinstated, and retracted by Clinton, Bush II, and then Obama. More recently, though, the “Gag Rule” creates such steep limitations that foreign aid organizations, like Planned Parenthood, end up having to close facilities. One trend that is unmistakable, is that when the number of unintended pregnancies increase, the number of abortions also increase. It follows then that when facilities close that offer family planning services that include contraception as a form of family planning, that unintended pregnancies will rise.
Using data obtained here, I conducted the following analysis.
First, I took the averages for the years when the Gag Rule was in effect, and for when it was not in effect. Effective years are 1997-2001, and 2010-2012. The years for which the rule was in effect are from 2002-2009. Each set of data has 8 years to account for it. The reasons for incorporation 2001 and 2009 into opposite columns is to account for the changes in funding, and the time it takes for the policy change to have an impact. Secondly, I did this for all nine provinces in South Africa, and as such, the data looks something like this:
This being the case, I decided to conduct a t-Test to determine if there’s any statistical chance that those two sets are statistically different, and low and behold, they are. The mean and variance for Non-Effective years were respectively 5.79 and 7.21, while effective years were respectively 7.53, and 13.24, p=0.001. This being said, even without conducting a t-test, there’s a remarkable difference even from face value. Effective years are marked by an increase ranging from 20.5 to 71%! The exception being Mpumalanga. While this brief analysis does not account for any other variables, I believe it is worth while to note that this serves as a flash point in terms of the consequences of reducing international aid aimed at family planning programs. Moreover, my results are consistent* with the World Health Organization’s 2011 paper, United States aid policy and induced abortion in sub-Saharan Africa, which conducted a far greater analysis than I have the means to do. Their study found strong support for the claim that the Mexico City Policy actually caused an increase in abortion rates.
*I found the World Health Organization’s article after I had conducted my analysis, and having read it determined that it would lend support to my argument. This being said, my claim of consistency should be taken lightly. Where’s the author’s of the WHO’s article conducted a logistic regression and a difference-in-difference design, I simply used a t-test comparing two means. The “consistency” is more a reflection of the fact that both my analysis, as well as the World Health Organization’s analysis show that years in which the Mexico City Polciy was in place, abortion rates rose. My analysis and data set may also be a matter of contention. There are several weaknsesses with both sets of data and results, but the inferences remain the same, and those inferences should be taken into strong consideration with respect to policy initiatives aimed at funding, or counter intuitively defunding groups that work towards providing family planning services and access to contraception.