Public funding for abortion where broadly legal

Contraception. 2016 Nov;94(5):453-460. doi: 10.1016/j.contraception.2016.06.019. Epub 2016 Jul 22.


Objective: The objective was to investigate public funding policies for abortion in countries with liberal or liberally interpreted laws (defined as permitting abortion for economic or social reasons or upon request).

Study design: In May 2011-February 2012 and June 2013-December 2014, we researched online resources and conducted an email-based survey among reproductive health experts to determine countries' public funding policies for abortion. We categorized countries as follows: full funding for abortion (provided for free at government facilities, covered under state-funded health insurance); partial funding (partially covered by the government, covered for certain populations based on income or nonincome criteria, or less expensive in public facilities); funding for exceptional cases (rape/incest/fetal impairment, health/life of the woman or other limited cases) and no public funding.

Results: We obtained data for all 80 countries meeting inclusion criteria. Among the world's female population aged 15-49 in countries with liberal/liberally interpreted abortion laws, 46% lived in countries with full funding for abortion (34 countries), 41% lived in countries with partial funding (25 countries), and 13% lived in countries with no funding or funding for exceptional cases only (21 countries). Thirty-one of 40 high-income countries provided full funding for abortion (n=20) or partial funding (n=11); 28 of 40 low- to middle-income countries provided full (n=14) or partial funding for abortion (n=14). Of those countries that did not provide public funding for abortion, most provided full coverage of maternity care.

Conclusion: Nearly half of countries with liberal/liberally interpreted abortion laws had public funding for abortion, including most countries that liberalized their abortion law in the past 20 years. Outliers remain, however, including among developed countries where access to abortion may be limited due to affordability.

Implications: Since cost of services affects access, country policies regarding public funding for services should be monitored, and advocacy should prioritize ensuring the affordability of care for low-income women.

Keywords: Abortion; Cost; Global; Public funding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Legal / economics*
  • Abortion, Legal / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Developed Countries
  • Family Planning Services / economics
  • Female
  • Financing, Government*
  • Health Services Accessibility / economics
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / economics*
  • Medical Assistance / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • Young Adult