Why reproductive health and choice matters

world population day

Thirty years ago, on July 11 1987, the population of the world reached five billion. Since 1990, this day has been recognised by the United Nations as World Population Day (WDP) to raise awareness of population issues.

The population of the world today is 7,518,737,772 and, quite literally, counting. By the time you have read this, at least 300 more babies will have been born. The lives of those babies are dependent not only on where they are born, but the health and wellbeing of those who have given birth.

The theme for WPD this year is Family Planning: Empowering People, Developing Nations. Coinciding with the Family Planning Summit held in London, the day recognises the importance of safe, reliable access to contraception as a means to combat poverty in some of the world’s poorest nations.

According to the World Health Organisation, the leading cause of death among women aged between 15 to 44 years is HIV/AIDS. The second biggest killer of women in this age group is maternal death, with WHO estimating more than 280,000 girls and women die each year due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

Raising awareness around these issues is particularly important given the recent decision by the Trump administration to stop funding NGOs that provide information and advice to women in developing countries if that information includes access to safe abortions.

Known as the ‘Gag Order’, opponents say it ignores the reality that tens of thousands of women die every year through complications from unsafe abortions. International health workers have argued that they cannot provide effective family planning health services (contraceptive advice, condoms, maternal monitoring) without including safe abortions.

When the gag order was signed in January this year, the International Planned Parenthood Federation announced its decision to forgo the $100 million it receives from USAid and continue to offer comprehensive family planning.

Experts agree that access to reproductive health information plays a major role, in not only the health of women and babies, but also the economic development of poorer countries.

Women who can control how many children they have and when they have them are more likely to receive an education, participate in the workforce and raise healthy, educated children.

The United Nations Family Planning Summit, which begins in London today, will bring together health experts from more than 20 countries along with representatives from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to assess the reproductive health needs of women globally.

The stated aim of the organisation is to provide safe and reliable contraception to more than 120 million girls and women by 2020. This is part of the commitment to live up to the United Nations statement of: “Delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.”

Image: Abbie Trayler-Smith/Flickr





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