Opinion

10 April 2012

Family Planning: Making the Fundamental Human Right a Reality

The United Kingdom government of David Cameron and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently announced plans for a summit in London in July to raise funds for voluntary family planning so that everyone who wants it has access to the means to exercise this human right. UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, fully supports and is a partner in this historic initiative on an often-overlooked human right.

Since the late 1960s, the international community has proclaimed a person's right to family planning, that is the right to decide whether, when and how many times to have children, as well as to the means to exercise this human right. Those means include access to reproductive health care, including contraceptives, information, supplies and services. The right of individuals to determine freely the size of their families was emphasized and expanded by the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, in Cairo. The Conference also put women at the very heart of population programs.

Yet, in the developing world, an estimated 215 million women who want to delay or avoid their next pregnancy cannot exercise this right as they lack modern contraceptives, resulting in unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions and more than 100,000 maternal deaths. This is what the family planning summit in July will tackle.

There are many reasons why many women do not or cannot take advantage of family planning. Sometimes, there are obstacles related to weak transportation systems that hamper delivery of contraceptives to women in rural or remote areas. Such obstacles could also be cultural or social. Other times, misinformation about use and safety discourages women from seeking family planning.

Read the full blog entry in the Huffington Post.