Raising Women’s Voices

Family Planning Only Option to Fight Poverty

Posted in Health Disparities by raisingwomensvoices on April 16, 2009

Women around the world continue to illustrate the disparity between the poor and the wealthy when it comes to access to contraceptives as well as information and counseling.

Global efforts to reduce poverty won’t get anywhere as long as women who can’t afford it continue to have multiple children–especially when they themselves want only a few. There is no way to elevate the lifestyles of these women and their children unless we help them have fewer children.

The UN estimates that 200 million women around the world have an “unmet need” for acess to safe and effective contraception. These are women who don’t want to get pregnant, but do not use family planning. This results in 70 to 80 million unwanted pregnancies each year, and subsequently 19 million abortions and 150,000 maternal deaths, according to the UN.

Family Planning Programs have stalled in the last years, in part because of abortion politics, which resulted in the US cutting off funding for the United Nations Population Fund, even though this resulted in more unwanted pregnancies and more abortions.

Another problem is that services are more difficult and complex than activists and enthusiasts ever expected. In nations such as Haiti, for example, where there are clinics and women say they want fewer children, there is still little counseling at these clinics when women have questions or problems, and oftentimes women feel as if the clinics are scornful of them if they are poor.

Husbands often refuse to wear condoms, and in Haiti’s social structure, women feel they have no choice but to acquiesce.

It is said that the best contraception is not the pill or an IUD, but educating girls, giving them the ability to earn an income and therefore elevate the status of women. This includes access to better counseling and a greater choice of family planning methods–for free.

There is no other way to reduce poverty, and evidence has shown that when parents are confident that their children will live, they have fewer children and invest more in each of them.

For more, read the New York Times piece here


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