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This research brief describes work documented in Do Better Family Planning Services Reduce Abortion in Bangladesh? (RP-993).

Excerpt: It might seem that increasing contraceptive use would reduce abortion by reducing unintended pregnancies, but, in fact, abortion and contraceptive use have sometimes increased simultaneously in developing nations. For example, in the past two decades, fertility in one rural area of Bangladesh has fallen by about half while both abortion and contraception nearly tripled. Abortion rates sometimes increase as birth rates decrease in developing nations. Social and economic development leads couples to want to invest more in the health and education of their children, raising the "costs" of each child. As these costs increase, couples become more interested in limiting the number of their births. If couples are unable to limit their births through contraception, they may do so through abortion. This can cause particular problems in developing countries where many abortions are performed by unsafe means and thereby carry great risk of maternal morbidity and mortality.

This research was supported by the United States Agency for International Development through a grant to the ICDDR,B Centre for Health and Population Research from The Futures Group International POLICY Project Global Research Awards Program, a grant to RAND from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and by Pathfinder International. The preparation of this brief was supported by the RAND Center for the Study of the Family in Economic Development, which is supported in part by a program project grant from the National Institute for Child and Human Development; the Center works with government officials, public agencies, and research institutions in developing countries on studies of health and demographic issues.

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