Effects of Expanded Legal Grounds for Abortion on the Schooling of Girls and Young Women in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Cross-Country Analysis

Wei Chang

Policy reforms that expand legal grounds for abortion may allow girls and young women to stay in school longer by offering the option to delay marriage and parenting responsibilities, but such high-level policy changes alone might not empower women and girls to pursue their education goals due to institutional barriers or lack of access to health services. Using the Demographic and Health Survey data from 18 countries, this study analyzes whether the liberalization of abortion laws was associated with increased schooling among girls and young women through delaying marriage and childbearing during the period 1996 to 2015. Preliminary results suggest that while abortion laws did not affect schooling, expanded grounds for abortion were associated with a 9% decrease in marriage and births and the effects were stronger among the very young girls. These findings highlight the importance of reproductive health policies to women’s and girls’ development potential in low-resource settings.

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 Presented in Session 48. Policies on Gender and Reproductive Health and its impacts on population trends