Happy New Year and Family Planning for All!

Happy New Year! With the start of the Affordable Care Act this year and birth control available to many American women without a co-pay, we have made great strides to decrease unintended pregnancies in the United States. I was about to write about new contraceptives that may be coming down the pipeline that could add to the already vast array of choices American women have for family planning. As I lay in my warm bed, thankful for being safe and well fed, I thought about women around the world who do not have the choices I have. They aren’t reading articles about new advances in contraceptive choices. Many have no access to contraceptives at all. Globally, 222 million women have an “unmet need for contraception.”

Let’s create a healthier world where we all have access to family planning!

One of the most essential ways to increase a woman’s health and independence is to provide access to family planning. When women have access to contraception, fewer unintended pregnancies result and also fewer unsafe abortions. Women who continue to have unintended pregnancies risk not only their health and the health of their child, they also have fewer educational and economic opportunities. When a woman is able to time and space her pregnancies, the woman, her children, and her community fare better. In communities where rapid population growth is related to unintended pregnancies, social and economic progress is impaired.

Limited access to contraceptives is just a part of the problem. Fear of using modern contraceptives such as the birth control pill also contribute to decreased use of some contraceptives. In many countries, religious and cultural values may have an impact on family planning efforts. Lack of  donor support to put programs of education and access in place are also a factor, especially when many political discussions associate family planning with abortion.

There are bright lights in the world for these women. Planned Parenthood Federation of America helps anyone with contraception and family planning regardless of economic status, sexual orientation, or age. Globally, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has taken on responsibility for this goal: “to ensure that women and girls in developing countries have access to quality family planning information, services, and supplies.” The London Summit on Family Planning has joined the Gates Foundation in this effort. The CONRAD and PATH programs are developing products that are innovative and acceptable for contraception and prevention of HIV for women in developing countries. We’ll look at some of these products in a later article.

We are all in this one world together. Let’s make it a healthier world where all women have access to family planning. Then it will be a truly Happy New Year!