Summary: WHO Report on United States aid policy and induced abortion in sub-Saharan Africa

The following is a summary of the World Health Organization’s study “United States aid policy and induced abortion in sub-Saharan Africa”. The full study is available here.

While the subject of abortion is one of the most hotly debated issues in American politics, citizens on all sides generally agree on an overall goal of reducing the total number of abortions, though favored methods vary widely.

In light of the recent re-instatement of the Mexico City Policy, it’s worth looking at some data to gauge its effectiveness at the shared goal of abortion reduction.

The Mexico City policy is a United States government policy that requires all global health organizations that receive federal funding to refrain from performing or promoting (mentioning) abortion as a method of family planning in other countries.

via Mexico City policy – Wikipedia

In other words, even though US federal funds cannot be used for abortions, if an organization provides abortion or abortion-related services (such as including it as an option in counseling) using any other funds, then that organization is ineligible for US funds.

This policy was originally implemented by Reagan, and has been removed & re-instated with every party change in the White House.

In 2011, the WHO released a study examining abortion rates in sub-saharan Africa from 1994 to 2008. From 1994-2000 the policy was not in place under Clinton, then was put in place under Bush in 2001.

Here is a chart showing results from this study. The “high exposure” vs “low exposure” was classified based on whether US financial assistance was above or below the median for that country.


Rates remained fairly steady during the first few years, and then began to climb after the re-instatement of the policy (indicated by the dotted line). Countries with high exposure – who were more dependent upon US funds for family planning – saw the rate of abortions increase at a much higher rate.


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