New Report: Family Planning By Choice, Not By Chance

JALOZAI, PAKISTAN - JULY 13: Ishak 3 months, is held by his mother, displaced from her home due to the Pakistan Army's latest
JALOZAI, PAKISTAN - JULY 13: Ishak 3 months, is held by his mother, displaced from her home due to the Pakistan Army's latest Military offensive in the Bara area of Khyber Tribal Region in Northwest Pakistan, receives polio vaccination drops at the Merlin clinic at the Jalozai UNHCR Camp for Internally Displaced Person's (IDP's) on July 13, 2012 in Jalozai, Pakistan. The remote Tribal regions of Pakistan have been off-limits for Polio outreach vaccination teams due to security risks from militants. Since January of this year, thousands of IDP's from the Bara area in Khyber Tribal Region, have been forced to flee their homes due to the latest offensive by the Pakistan Military against militants in the area. 'It has been a window of opportunity for us to be able to vaccinate people from the Tribal regions during this last influx (of IDP's) from Bara' said Dr Imran from the Merlin Clinic at the Jalozai Camp. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Women want the ability to decide for themselves when or if they will have children. There may be debate but for most of us there is very little controversy. But for women who are poor, and who are living in the poorest countries of the world, there is no ability, there is no choice. There is only chance. A new report released today, By choice, not by chance: family planning, human rights, and development, offers clear evidence of this huge unmet need for family planning, and calls on both developing and developed countries to take a stand. UNFPA, the authors of the report, call for universal access to family planning to save lives and to save billions of dollars in health costs.

According to UNFPA,

Making voluntary family planning available to everyone in developing countries would reduce costs for maternal and newborn health care by $11.3 billion annually, according to The State of World Population 2012, published today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

Looking ahead, if an additional 120 million obtained access to family planning, the report estimates 3 million fewer babies would die in their first year of life.

The pledge we made in July in London to increase access to family planning will improve the lives of millions and will each year help avert 200,000 maternal deaths...I call on all leaders to build on this momentum, close the funding gap, and make voluntary family planning a development priority."

Dr. Osotimehin, UNFPA

For too many women, there is a chance that she is able to find the contraceptive option she needs, a chance that there is a health center relatively close by and not one miles away which would take her hours to walk to -- with other children in hand, a chance that this health center has the contraceptive she uses in stock at the time she needs it. It's time, says UNFPA, to take a stand:

Increase access to voluntary family planning and eliminate barriers which make this access difficult and sometimes impossible. But also engage men and boys. There are innumerable benefits that simply can't be ignored.

"Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women's increased labour-force participation boosts nations' economies," says UNFPA's Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin.

Read the report here.

We all have a story to share about family planning. What's yours? Share it, along with 20,000 others from around the world who already have at Then take the pledge. Together we can ensure access to family planning for the millions of women who want access in developing countries.

Amie Newman is the Editor of Impatient Optimists, the blog of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.