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Population Policy: Abortion and Modern Contraception are Substitutes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)979-1009
Number of pages31
Issue number4
Early online date6 Jul 2016
DateAccepted/In press - 8 Mar 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jul 2016
DatePublished (current) - Aug 2016


There is longstanding debate in population policy about the relationship between modern contraception and abortion. Although theory predicts that they should be substitutes, the existing body of empirical evidence is difficult to interpret. What is required is a large-scale intervention that alters the supply (or full price) of one or the other – and importantly, does so in isolation (reproductive health programs often bundle primary health care and family planning – and in some instances, abortion services). In this paper, we study Nepal’s 2004 legalization of abortion provision and subsequent expansion of abortion services, an unusual and rapidly-implemented policy meeting these requirements. Using four waves of rich individual-level data representative of fertile-age Nepalese women, we find robust evidence of substitution between modern contraception and abortion. This finding has important implications for public policy and foreign aid, suggesting that an effective strategy for reducing expensive and potentially unsafe abortions may be to expand the supply of modern contraceptives.

    Research areas

  • Abortion, Contraception, Nepal

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    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via Springer Verlag at DOI 10.1007/s13524-016-0492-8. Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

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    Licence: CC BY


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