A new report from the United Nations Population Fund declares that family planning is a global “right” for women, and calls for the removal of any social and financial obstacles to it.
“Every adult, adolescent and young person everywhere, regardless of sex, social status, income, ethnicity, religion or place of residence must be empowered to decide freely and responsibly how many children to have and when to have them,” the document said.
On Nov. 14, the United Nations Population Fund released the report, titled “The State of World Population 2012.” It is subtitled “By Choice, Not By Chance” and links family planning to international development.
In its analysis, the UNFPA called the July 2012 London Summit on Family Planning a “sign of progress.”
The event, which the population fund hosted with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, secured $2.6 billion in pledges from countries and foundations to provide family planning to 120 million women. It said $4.1 billion is needed to provide family planning to 222 million women who reportedly would use it but lack access to it.
The summit drew intense backlash, however, from critics ranging from the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano to global pro-life advocates.
Meghan Grizzle, research and policy specialist at the World Youth Alliance, and Greg Pfundstein – executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation – said the figure of 222 million women in need of family planning is “misleading” and likely overstated.
“Many women have access to contraception and choose not to use it. Social scientists and public policy experts identify women as having an unmet need for contraception even when those women have not expressed a desire to use contraception,” Pfundstein and Grizzle said in a July essay published in Public Discourse.
Wendy Wright, interim executive director of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, in July charged that the summit marks “a new chapter in the population control movement.” She said the summit would use the goal of helping poor women to secure permanent funding for abortion-promoting and population control groups.
Wright said that resources used for family planning could be better directed to providing access to basic health care and maternal health care.
In its new report, UNFPA included some population control advocacy and depicted access to family planning as a “sound economic investment.”
It attributed the growth of some Asian economies to a family planning-driven demographic shift which caused the numbers of income-generating adults to be higher than those dependent upon them for support. The report predicted a $30 billion growth in the Nigerian economy if its fertility rate falls by one child per woman in the next 20 years.
The UNFPA report summary said family planning is “almost universally recognized as an intrinsic right” that should be “available to all.” It said family planning should be promoted as “a right” which enables “a whole range of other rights.”
The report does, however, include a favorable mention of family planning methods the Catholic Church does not recognize as sinful.
“Fertility awareness-related methods are also quite effective if used correctly,” it said, citing Guttmacher Institute statistics indicating that these methods are only slightly more likely to result in pregnancy in the first year of use than condoms and are much less likely to result in pregnancy than no family planning method.