Quantifying disparities in access to public-sector abortion based on legislative differences within the Mexico City Metropolitan Area

Joseph Friedman, Biani Saavedra-Avendaño, Raffaela Schiavon, Lily Alexander, Patricio Sanhueza, Ranulfo Rios-Polanco, Laura Garcia-Martinez, Blair G. Darney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objectives: In the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, only women in the city center have local access to legal first-trimester abortion. We quantify how this legislative discrepancy affects access to legal, public-sector abortion across the metropolitan area. Study design: In this observational study, we used a dataset representing 67.2% of all abortions occurring between 2010 and 2012 in Mexico City's public abortion program and census population data. We calculate utilization rates for 75 municipalities in the metropolitan area for 2010–2012. We compare utilization between municipalities with and without local legal access, adjusting for differences in sociodemographic drivers of abortion demand. We explore the effects of local abortion legality, travel time and socioeconomic status (SES). Results: Women who had to travel into the city center for legal abortions used services at only 18.6% (95% CI 13.3%–33.0%) of the expected rate if they had local access, adjusting for sociodemographic factors. After controlling for travel time and SES, women who lived where abortion is illegal had a 58.6% (95% CI 21.5%–78.1%) reduction in access, and each additional 15 min of travel further reduced access by 33.7% (95% CI 18.2%–46.3%). Women who travel to seek legal abortions are more likely to have completed secondary education compared to other reproductive age women in their municipality (p = <.00001). Conclusions: We find that, in the Mexico City Metropolitan Area, both living where abortion is illegal and having to travel further to access services substantially reduce access to legal, public-sector abortion. These burdens disproportionately affect women of lower SES. Implications: Both local legality and proximate access are key to ensuring equity in access to public-sector abortion. Legalization of abortion services across the greater Mexico City Metropolitan Area has the potential to increase equity in utilization and meet unmet demand for legal abortion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)160-164
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Abortion
  • Disparities
  • Legality
  • Mexico
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Travel time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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