By Suzanne York. Original article posted at 6DegreesofPopulation.org
World Contraception Day was September 26th. There are numerous reasons why this day should be celebrated and awareness raised on using contraceptives. Contraception makes it possible for couples to enjoy the pleasures of intimacy without the consequences of pregnancy. Fully 61 percent of all couples in the world today are having sex and practice some form of contraception to avoid pregnancy.
But there are 222 million (and more) reasons to do better, and why the world should recognize and support World Contraception Day.
According to the World Health Organization and other groups, there are an estimated 222 million women in developing countries who would like to delay or stop childbearing but are not using any method of contraception. Lack of access, information, education, poverty, and limited options are some of the main barriers.
The Guttmacher Institute, in its report Adding It Up: Costs and Benefits of Contraceptive Services-Estimates for 2012, found that providing the current level of contraceptive care in the developing world costs $4 billion a year; fully meeting all need for modern contraceptive methods would cost $8.1 billion per year.
Guttmacher lists some of the effects of filling the unmet need for contraceptives, including:
- unintended pregnancies would decline by 2/3rds, from 80 million to 26 million;
- there would be 21 million fewer unplanned births;
- there would be 1.1 million fewer infant deaths.
The benefits go beyond meeting contraception needs. Women gain so much when they are educated about their reproductive health and rights, and have access to voluntary family planning services. Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, has said that “Meeting the global demand for voluntary family planning will not only save and improve lives of women and children; it will empower women, reduce poverty and ultimately build stronger nations.”
The environment also benefits. When women are in charge of their reproductive rights and are able to make the best choices for themselves and their families, it helps them cope with the effects of climate change. Women are on the frontlines, facing at times drastically changing weather patterns. In most countries around they world they are the main providers of food, water, and other resources for their families. When women are empowered, they can better support their families and communities and adapt to climate impacts.
And this past July, at the London Summit on Family Planning, a high-level gathering hosted by the Gates Foundation and the UK Department for International Development, donors pledged to provide $2.6 billion over the next eight years to help the world’s poorest women gain access to contraceptives. It has been called a “breakthrough for the world’s poorest women and girls,” with more than 20 developing countries making commitments to increase spending on family planning.
In the United States, a recent study by Guttmacher found that the availability and use of contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy has had profound and positive impacts on the lives of American women.
The majority of participants reported that contraception has had a significant impact on their lives, allowing them to take better care of themselves or their families (63%), support themselves financially (56%), complete their education (51%), or keep or get a job (50%).
Those are some very good reasons to celebrate World Contraceptive Day and to continue to invest in contraceptive access for women around the world.
Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies/HowMany.org