Earlier this month, the United Nations declared access to contraception a basic human right. A recently released State of World Population 2012 report titled By Choice Not By Chance addressed the issue of family planning and stressed the importance of making contraceptives accessible in developing countries. According to the UN, an estimated 222 million women worldwide a
re at risk of unintended pregnancy.
The report stated that "voluntary family planning should be available to all, not just the wealthy or otherwise privileged." That concept, of making accessible forms of contraception available to those who cannot afford it, is not only an issue in developing countries but has also been a topic of debate in some developed countries as well. Earlier this year, lawmakers in the United States Congress underwent a bitter legislative battle over a mandate requiring birth control coverage in health insurance plans.
Describing the importance of family planning as a "matter of economic and social development," the UN argues that, "investing in family planning helps reduce poverty, improve health, promote gender equality, enable adolescents to finish their schooling and increase labourforce participation." With access to contraception, women can avoid unwanted pregnancies and births, allowing them better to pursue an education and career.
While ensuring that women all over the world have sufficient access to contraceptives doesn't come without cost, the report states that while an additional $4.1 billion each year is necessary to adequately meet the needs of women worldwide, that investment could save around $5.7 billion in maternal and newborn health services as a result.
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