How Reproductive Health Laws Help to Explain the Gap between Contraceptive Use and Fertility Decline: The Curious Case of Ghana

Ashley M. Fox, Columbia University

In this paper we explore the effect of the 1985 abortion law change in Ghana on fertility outcomes. The co-incidence of the abortion law liberalization and the start of the fertility decline led us to question the role of abortion and reproductive health laws more generally in explaining the fertility decline in Ghana. Changes in reproductive health laws provide a potentially exogenous change in access to family planning services that might affect fertility. Through a mixed methods approach we conducted key informant interviews in Ghana and complemented this with statistical analysis using the Ghana World Fertility Survey and the Ghana Demographic and Health Surveys. Empirical results indicate that the liberalization of the abortion law played a significant role in explaining the fertility decline in Ghana. The key informant interviews suggest that the reasons for the liberalization of reproductive health laws were largely exogenous to women’s changing preferences for family planning.

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Presented in Session 16: Contextual and Policy Influences on Reproductive Health and Fertility