U.N. report: Birth control a human right

By ADAM JABARI JEFFERSON, MEDILL NEWS SERVICE, Written for UPI  |  Nov. 14, 2012 at 5:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (UPI) -- Investments in family planning could save developing nations $11 billion a year, a U.N. Population Fund report released Wednesday stated.

The report -- "The State of Global Population: By Choice, Not By Chance" -- focused on family planning as a human right and is about "the importance of being able to choose if, when and how many children to have," lead author Margaret Greene said in a briefing at the National Press Club in Washington.

The report makes the case for both the human rights and economic development rewards of family planning. Worldwide, 222 million women of childbearing age lack access to modern contraceptives. The largest disparities exist in less developed and poorer regions.

Joined by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners, the UNFPA organized a meeting in July that garnered $4.6 billion in funding commitments to make voluntary family planning available to 120 million girls and women by 2020. However, a total of $8.1 billion per year is necessary to address the unmet need for family planning in developing countries.

"Those investments would save billions more dollars by reducing maternal and neonatal health costs but also by protecting schooling and employment from disruption by unintended pregnancy," Greene said.

Susan Cohen, director of government affairs with the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual health advocacy group, noted that the need for family planning is just as relevant in the United States.

"The main reason that United States women use birth control is because they can't afford to have a child right now or they can't afford to take care of their existing family," Cohen said.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said she was astonished that debates about contraception persist despite data showing the negative effects of unplanned pregnancy on education, civic engagement and income, particularly among teens.

"We're committed to protecting the rights for all of our sisters around the world," Schakowsky said.

While married women of childbearing age have traditionally been the focus of family planning services, Greene said, "It's equally essential to extend the right to family planning to young people, for whom age-appropriate sexuality education and contraception for timing their child-bearing is essential to life planning. The ability to plan their births is essential to other aspects of their lives."

The report also seeks to improve family planning services to men and disadvantaged populations around the world. The report can be found online at: http://www.unfpa.org/swp.

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