Contraception at the UN

A powerful new UN statement demands that women have access to affordable, quality contraceptive services and information.

 

The evidence is staggering.

Never has there been so much data about the impact contraception can have—the ways in which it improves women’s lives, health, and development; how it improves women’s equality by decreasing school dropout rates, early marriage and allows them to engage on a more equal basis in the workforce; how the unintended pregnancy rate, and the consequences that accompany it, plummets when birth control is used successfully.

And still, governments across the globe attempt to restrict access to and use of contraception, denying women the obvious and undeniable benefits.

In the face of such resistance—and in the wake of International Women’s Day—we celebrate Denmark, Ethiopia, Argentina, and Morocco’s powerful leadership in recognizing the importance of women’s human rights in sponsoring this cross-regional statement on contraception and family planning. The statement makes clear that women must have guaranteed access to affordable, available, adequate, and quality contraceptive information and services. Further, it is critical that human rights are central to protect against discrimination.

The support of more than 60 countries from across the globe that signed onto this statement demonstrates that the global community must place contraceptive information and services at the forefront of the international agenda. The urgency becomes apparent in reviewing just a few of the convincing data on contraception:

  • At least 222 million women in developing countries would like to use family planning services but don’t have access, for a variety of reasons.
  • Every dollar spent on birth control returns anywhere from $4 to $8 in reduced medical costs related to unintended pregnancies.
  • A new World Health Organization report estimates that access to contraception could reduce maternal deaths by 79,000 per year.

“As international attention on the importance of contraception grows, it only puts more attention on the lingering question: why do governments stand in the way of universal access?” said Rebecca Brown, the Center’s Director of Global Advocacy. “Women’s rights to access contraceptive information and services is far too frequently violated as a result of politics, ideology, and outright discrimination against women.”

In the Philippines, an executive order in Manila bans the distribution of modern contraception in public health facilities. Many thousands of impoverished   women are left choosing between paying for contraception at private facilities and feeding their families.

Time and again, Slovakia has been cited by human rights groups, including the Center in our groundbreaking report Calculated Injustice: The Slovak Republic’s failure to ensure access to contraceptives, of violating the human rights of Slovak women by shirking its responsibilities on contraceptives and related information.

And here in the United States, the historic contraceptive mandate that was a key component of the Affordable Care Act has been under attack since the law’s passage. The Supreme Court has taken on the case of Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., reviewing claims that for-profit organizations have the right to interfere with and deny women their right to determine the number and spacing of their children.

The need for contraceptive services and information has never been more apparent. And this cross-regional statement comes at a crucial time, reminding all nations of their affirmative obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill this right for all women.