Where Is the Family Planning?

It's a question millions of women are asking.

Every woman should be able to have access to contraception, regardless of where they live. And if you agree, you're not alone. A recent survey by The Harris Poll found that 89 percent of U.S. adults believe that men and women everywhere should have access to contraception. EngenderHealth, the global women's health organization I lead, wants to increase public support and engage Americans in the movement to expand global access to family planning.

What if you wanted to wait to get pregnant, or not get pregnant at all -- at least until you were ready -- but there was no contraception available anywhere? It's hard for many of us in the United States to imagine, but unfortunately, this is reality for more than 220 million women in the developing world who cannot access contraceptives and family planning services.

There is no doubt that family planning saves lives and empowers women. In fact, if all women who wanted family planning could get it, we could prevent millions of deaths every year. The world would see a 30 percent drop in maternal deaths and a 40 percent decrease in newborn deaths, according to research by the United Nations Population Fund and the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health think tank.

And it only gets better -- when women have access to family planning, there is a remarkable ripple effect of benefits for women, their families, and their communities. When a woman is able to have the number of children she wants, not the number her circumstances dictate, transformative events happen: She goes further in school, she is more likely to invest money back into her family, and her family is more likely to prosper. And as women and families become healthier, more educated, and more prosperous, the exponential benefits extend to communities and nations.

A number of factors can limit a woman's access to contraception, including: price, availability of supplies, cultural norms, and misinformation about side effects, to name just a few. Yet every day, we are making progress to overcome these challenges and expand access to contraception for women everywhere. With increased support, we can reach millions more women to ensure that they are able to make informed and voluntary decisions about their own reproductive health and contraceptive choices.

Together as a community, we must continue to build momentum. EngenderHealth's WTFP?! (Where's the Family Planning?!) campaign, which launches this week, aims to raise awareness about global family planning and inspire action. Get involved by watching this short video on history's worst contraceptives.

Those of us who were fortunate enough to have benefited from family planning in our own lives have a responsibility to ensure that every woman has the same opportunity. Join us to ask "Where's the Family Planning?!" and spread the word with #WherestheFP!