Articles

Fertility and Development: Abortion and the Democratic Transition in Mexico

Wednesday, February 20, 2008
 
By Olga M. Lazin
February 20, 2008
In Romania abortion has been legalized in January 1990, after the 1989 December uprising.
Ever since, Romanian women have had less and less children. And rightfully so.
Liberalization of the economy has impacted negatively on the mothers and their level of life or standard of living.
Right after the revolution, Romanian gynecologists would rather provoke an abortion in women, than offer contraceptives.
Confronted with this mindset, USAID/Romania and its development partnersfaced a daunting challenge in educating women as well as the medical communityabout the benefits of family planning.  The Mission funded the NGO SECS toestablish the country first private family planning clinics.  The organization wasstarted by a group of influential ObGyns appalled by the number of women dyingor permanently harmed from illegal, unsafe abortions during the communist era. SECS currently operates 12 clinics, only 7 of which are supported by USAID.
Government run family planning clinics were funded by a World Bank healthsector loan; 12 such facilities are now open.  A survey conducted by the Missionconcluded that less than 10% of potential users of contraceptives chose to go tothese clinics due to concerns about the attitudes of the staff and aboutconfidentiality.
With the legalization of abortion in Mexico City, Mexico will be able to complete the fertility transition, resulting in both economic and social benefits. Now, this is being repealed in Congress (see recent article, the 23rd of April, 2008)
• Resources can be spent on other things than child bearing and raising at all levels of society
• Economy becomes more productive
Demographic Transition Theory applicable to Romania and Mexico
• This theory describes the transition from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates, from high growth potential to incipient decline
• Idea was first developed in 1929 by Warren Thompson and further developed by Frank Notestein in 1945
The Mortality Transition
• There is a great shift from deaths at younger ages due to communicable disease to deaths at older ages due to degenerative diseases
•  It creates rapid population growth because fertility levels are still high
• Leads to overpopulation of rural areas which creates the migration transition and the urban transition, where overpopulation causes people to move to the cities looking for jobs and urban areas become more populated than rural areas (see Mexico City).
The Fertility Transition
•Shift from natural (and high) to controlled (and low) fertility, typically in a delayed response to the mortality transition. E.g. during Ceausescu’s prohibition of abortions in Romania, there was a high fertility rate.
•The decline in mortality  leads to greater survival of children
•This eventually motives people to limit the number of children they have
Examples of the Demographic Transition
Thompson divided countries into three groups
–Group A: falling rates of increase; potential population decline (see Russia, Romania).
–Group B: birth rates and death rates low; death rates decline first, causing population growth
–Group C: neither birth rates nor death rates were under controlled; “Malthusian”.
Thompson predicted that it would take 3 to 4 decades for some of the countries in what he labeled Group C to enter Group B
  
Among these countries affected were Japan, Russia, and much of Southern Europe (most of these are now in Group A) 
Social and Historical Components of Fertility
•Hunter-gatherer societies would be motivated to space children several years apart because it would be easier to be on the move with less small children, thus decreasing fertility (indigenous populations in Brazil).
•In agricultural societies it is more advantageous to have more children because they can serve as labor and infant mortality is high
•In urban industrial and post industrial societies low mortality and high standards of living, as well as the increased cost of raising children, reduces the demand for children Preconditions for a substantial fertility decline
1.The acceptance of calculated choice as a valid element in marital fertility
2.The perception of advantages from reduced fertility
3.Knowledge and master of effective techniques of control
These do not necessarily operate in a strictly linear fashion.
How is the Fertility Transition Accomplished?
•Later marriages are leading to delay in childbearing to older ages and earlier end to child bearing
•Increased use of contraception
•Increased incidence of abortion Consequences of the Fertility Transition
•Mortality Transition Continues, the survival rate of children increases since the woman has fewer children to share resources with
•The age transition, few children are being born and thus there is an increasingly older age structure
• Societal resources are diverted away from dealing with the impact of children to dealing with broader social concerns, which increases the standards of living, further increasing life expectancy (India).
• Mortality Transition Continues, the survival rate of children increases since the woman has fewer children to share the available resources with.
• The age transition, few children are being born and thus there is an increasingly older age structure
• Societal resources are diverted away from dealing with the impact of children to dealing with broader social concerns, which increases the standards of living, further increasing life expectancy Countries which allow unrestricted abortion or have limited restrictions on abortion:
•United States, 1973
•Canada
•Japan
•Most of Europe
•China
•India
•Mexico City, 2007
* Romania, 1990.
 
   

Olga Magdalena Lazín
E-mail: olgalazin@gmail.com