Laws Change Lives: What Is the Connection Between Abortion Laws and Maternal Health?
When women with unwanted pregnancies encounter barriers to accessing abortion such as restrictive laws, they often resort to unsafe abortion.
May 13, 2021
Former Senior Policy Advisor
Former SAFE Engage Project Director & Program Director
Improving maternal health has become a development priority. Globally, the maternal mortality ratio has declined by almost 40 percent in the past generation, yet the goal of zero preventable maternal deaths still has not been achieved—over 200,000 women died in 2017 from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, including unsafe abortion. When women with unwanted pregnancies encounter barriers to accessing abortion such as restrictive laws, they often resort to unsafe abortion. Is there a relationship between abortion laws and maternal mortality?
To illustrate the connection between abortion laws and maternal health, PRB’s SAFE ENGAGE Project produced a short video using dynamic visualizations with the Gapminder data tool. The video presents data from four countries in Africa and Asia that have made recent changes to their abortion laws by expanding access to safe abortion under wider circumstances: Niger, Chad, Ethiopia, and Nepal. Soon after these countries amended their abortion laws, they experienced a notable decline in their maternal mortality ratio. The video allows viewers to visualize the relationship between abortion laws and maternal mortality through these case studies and see the connection between less restrictive abortion laws and improved maternal health measures.