Publication Title: 
BMJ Global Health
Publication Date: 
Friday, June 11, 2021

This article describes a method to locate evidence on health effects of abortion regulations in existing research that does not explicitly focus on law.

The Identifying Data for the Empirical Assessment of Law (IDEAL) method, developed by a team of academics, lawyers, reproductive health experts and law students, follows three steps to support the development of evidence-based guidelines and practice. The process identifies social science and epidemiological evidence that does not explicitly address the law, but can nonetheless enhance the understanding of legal effects and identify research gaps and priority research topics.

The steps in the IDEAL method are:

  1. Identify empirical research designed to assess the health effects of law.
  2. Develop causal logic models to display plausible pathways from the implementation of the law to the outcomes (health, equity, etc.).
  3. Use the models as a guide to conduct a second rapid scan meant to identify non-legal studies investigating whether the processes and outcomes posited in the models do, in fact, occur, and with what frequency, severity, or consequence.

The researchers tested six legal interventions using the IDEAL method: mandatory waiting periods, third-party authorization (including parental involvement, spousal consent and additional approval in cases of sexual assault), gestational limits, criminalization, provider restrictions and ‘conscientious objection’ (also known as ‘conscientious refusal’). This paper details the findings for parental involvement laws. The full research may be found in the data supplement, which is available on SSRN.