The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) published The State of World Population 2012 this November which underscored the positive impact that family planning has not only on the lives of women but on their households, communities, and countries as well. Women who are given the right to exercise family planning have healthy pregnancies, safe deliveries, and better health overall while their children also have lower risks of mortality and better cognition. Their households also benefit as better reproductive health translates to the ability to send their children to school, participate in the labor force, and have increased incomes.
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and the Executive Director of the UNFPA, writes: “The results of the rights-based approach to sexual and reproductive health and family planning have been extraordinary. Millions more women have become empowered to have fewer children and to start their families later in life, giving them an opportunity to complete their schooling, earn a better living and escape the trap of poverty.” And when “integrated into broader economic and social development initiatives,” Dr. Osotimehin adds that family planning “can have a positive multiplier effect on human development and the well-being of entire nations.” He explains: “Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labour-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to exercise this fundamental human right. The report reveals that in developing countries, 222 million women of childbearing age still do not have access to modern means of contraception. For as long as this need remains unmet, their lives are put to risk as they experience unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.
The problem is, funding is needed to address this. The UNFPA report estimates that an additional $4.1 billion each year is needed to give family planning access to the 222 million women who need it. Donor countries and foundations have already pledged “$2.6 billion to make family planning available to 120 million women in developing countries with unmet needs by 2020” last July at the London Summit on Family Planning.
But governments and leaders must also do their share to ensure that children are born “by choice, not by chance.” The report states that they can do this by implementing “a rights-based approach to family planning; emphasizing family planning in the global sustainable development agenda that will follow the Millennium Development Goals in 2015; focusing on specific excluded groups; and raising the funds to invest fully in family planning.”