Using a unique dataset detailing laws on access to contraception (pill, IUD, sterilization) combined with the Demographic and Health Surveys of 21 sub- Saharan African countries, we examine the effect of these laws on contraceptive use. We find that countries with more liberal contraceptive laws had higher rates of contraceptive use. We consider colonial origin, as French colonies had stricter contraceptive laws than British colonies at the time of independence. There is a legacy of the laws at the time of independence in the current laws, and presently former French colonies have stricter laws than the former British colonies. We find that the effect size of a contemporaneous liberalization of contraceptive laws is statistically smaller in former French colonies. The legacy of the stricter legal environment in the former French colonies resonates to affect contraceptive uptake today.
Jocelyn E Finlay, Erin James