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The impact of abortion legalization on fertility and female empowerment: new evidence from Mexico

Damian Clarke () and Hanna Mühlrad

No 2016-33, CSAE Working Paper Series from Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford

Abstract: We examine the effect of a large-scale, free, elective abortion program implemented in Mexico City in 2007. This reform resulted in a sharp increase in the request and use of early term elective abortions: approximately 90,000 abortions were administered by public health providers in the four years following the reform, versus only 62 in the five years preceding the reform. We document, firstly, that this localised reform resulted in a legislative backlash in 18 other Mexican states which constitutionally altered penal codes to increase sanctions on abortions. We take advantage of this dual policy environment to estimate the effect of progressive and regressive abortion reform on fertility and women’s empowerment. Using administrative birth data we find that progressive abortion laws reduce rates of child-bearing, particularly among young women. Additionally, the reform is found to increase women’s role in household decision making—an empowerment result in line with economic theory and empirical results from a developed-country setting. We however find little evidence to suggest that the resulting regressive changes to penal codes have had an inverse result over the time-period studied. In turning to mechanisms, evidence from a panel of women suggests that results are directly driven by increased access to abortion, rather than changes in sexual behaviour, contraceptive use or contraceptive knowledge.

Keywords: Fertility; Female Empowerment; Abortion legalization; Mexico (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I15 I18 J13 O15 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2016
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dem
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Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2016-33