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Contraception Could Save World $5.7 bn, Says UNFPA Report

By Countercurrents.org

15 November, 2012

The world economy would be boosted by billions of dollars if all women in the world had access to contraception, the United Nations said in By choice, not by chance, family planning, human rights and development, its annual State of World Population report.

The report, released on November 14, 2012, said inadequate family planning in developing countries contributed significantly to poverty and ill health, and that $5.7 billion could be saved by preventing unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions.

But the report noted that global funding for family planning has declined and said an extra $4.1 billion would be needed each year to fund contraceptives for everyone who needs them in developing countries.

Around 222 million women currently have insufficient access to contraceptives, the UNFPA report estimated.

The UN agency cited one study that attributed a third of the growth in the Asian "tiger" economies to increased use of contraceptives, which caused a drop in the number of children dependent on every working adult. If an additional 120 million women who wanted contraceptives could get them by 2020, the report said, an estimated three million fewer babies would die in their first year of life.

The report described "an array of economic benefits" brought by family planning, including a rise in the number of women in the workforce and wealthier households as the number of children in each home decreases.

The report cited a study in one community in Bangladesh that found women who used family planning earned wages that were one-third higher than the wages of their counterparts who had not used family planning.

Another study concluded, the report said, spacing pregnancies by three to five years could reduce infant death by 46 percent in developing countries.

It said: Of the 80 million unintended pregnancies that are projected to occur in 2012, an estimated 40 million will likely end in abortion. Addressing the unmet need for family planning worldwide would avert 54 million unintended pregnancies and result in 26 million fewer abortions.

The population report said:

Every adult, adolescent and young person everywhere, regardless of sex, social status, income, ethnicity, religion or place of residence must be empowered to decide freely and responsibly how many children to have and when to have them.

Citing research it said: Where family planning supplies, information and services are widely available, abortion rates are lower.

The report said:

Today, family planning is almost universally recognized as an intrinsic right, affirmed and upheld by many other human rights. Because it is a right, voluntary family planning should be available to all, not just the wealthy or otherwise privileged.

The report said that access to family planning was a "fundamental human right" that governments had an obligation to protect. Osotimehin described contraception as "one of the most effective means of empowering women", but he added that the right to birth control did not necessarily include the right to abortion in all countries. "Abortion should not be promoted as a method of contraception. Where it is legal, we advocate that it should be done safely," he told AFP. Africa and South Asia were the regions with the worst access to contraception, he added, "essentially because of poverty."

The report said:

Shortages of contraceptives are only one reason why millions of people are still unable to exercise their right to family planning. Access to family planning may also be restricted by forces including poverty, negative social pressures, gender inequality and discrimination. Ensuring access for all women, men and young people requires a multipronged effort: simultaneously strengthening health systems, introducing or enforcing laws that protect individuals’ rights, reducing poverty, challenging harmful traditional practices, eliminating child marriage, ending discrimination, removing logistical impediments and ensuring a broad range of supplies.

The UNFPA report observed:

When a woman is able to exercise her reproductive rights, she is more able to benefit from her other rights, such as the right to education. The results are higher incomes, better health for her and her children and greater
decision-making power for her, both in the household and the community. When women and men together plan their childbearing, children benefit immediately and in their long-term prospects.

"Family planning is not a privilege, but a right. Yet, too many women—and men—are denied this human right," said Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). "The data that we have shows that access to family planning unlocks unprecedented rewards, both at the individual and national level," the former Nigerian health minister told a press conference in London. "Women who have access to family planning can contribute enormously to economic development. The accumulated effect of these highly personal decisions can influence entire countries and regions."

A woman's chances of dying in childbirth were cut by a third by access to birth control, Osotimehin added.

"Thirteen percent of maternal mortality around the world is due to unsafe abortion," he told journalists. "That, in many circumstances, occurs in people who want family planning and they don't get it."




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