July 11 marks World Population Day, an annual event that this year emphasizes the rights of individuals and couples to plan their own families. Currently, 500 million women in the developing world are using some form of family planning, thereby preventing 187 million unintended pregnancies, 60 million unplanned births, 105 million induced abortions, 2.7 million infant deaths, 215,000 maternal deaths and 685,000 children from losing their mothers due to pregnancy-related deaths each year.
However, another 200 million women throughout the developing world who would like to delay or limit their births lack access to contraceptives. Providing these women with the services they need would prevent an additional 52 million unintended pregnancies and 23 million unplanned births each year. Preventing pregnancies that are unintended and births that are unplanned means:
- Improving maternal health and child survival. Helping women avoid becoming pregnant too early, too late or too often benefits them and their children. Meeting the unmet need for contraceptives would further reduce global rates of maternal mortality by 35%, and a three-year interval between births in developing countries would further lower rates of infant mortality by 24% and rates of child mortality by 35%.
- Reducing the number of abortions overall, especially unsafe abortion. Closing the gap in the unmet need for contraceptives would further reduce the number of abortions worldwide by 64% each year. More than half of all abortions occurring in developing countries are unsafe, and fewer unsafe abortions would lead to fewer maternal deaths and injuries.
- Preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. Improved access to condoms, both male and female, reduces the rate at which STIs, including HIV, are spread. Moreover, to the extent that HIV-positive women are better able to prevent unplanned pregnancies and births, they are also helping to reduce the rate of new HIV infections.
- Empowering women. Women who can control the number and timing of their children can take better advantage of educational and economic opportunities, improving their own future and that of their families.
- Promoting social and economic development and security. High population growth hampers poor countries’ economic development as their expanding populations compete for limited resources such as food, housing, schools and jobs. Rapid and unsustainable population growth renders societies more unstable and can lead to greater civil unrest.
- Protecting the environment. Since so many women worldwide want fewer children than their mothers did, increasing their access to voluntary family planning services will further slow population growth rates. Rapidly growing population exacerbates environmental degradation and strains the world’s resources.
Even though the benefits of investing in family planning are many and well documented, the United States is lagging far behind the financial commitments it made, along with other developed and developing countries, at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development. According to that pledge, the United States should be funding family planning and reproductive health services at a level greater than $1 billion annually, twice as much as it is investing currently.
Click on the links below for more information on: