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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One Response to “Why reproductive health and choice matters”

  1. Michael Clanchy

    Who could argue about the critical importance of women’s reproductive rights! Access to safe preventive contraception, skilled outreach birthing services in remote areas of the Third World, greater gender equity and life education for young women. Unfortunately, Mrs Clinton often uses “reproductive rights” or “women’s health matters” euphemistically after the words “pro choice” to signify a more specific emgenda.
    We are all devastated by the harrowing dilemmas mothers can face in a range of pregnancy situations related to serious risks to life, health and well-being, related to either mother or child. But the often invoked phrase “pro-choice” rarely articulates its express purpose these days-the availability of abortion on demand, for any reason, no reason, anytime.
    Who actually gets to make the choice, who doesn’t get a choice, who is most affected by the choice? All reasonable questions in considering the extreme property ownership and disposal rights granted under the 2008 Brumby Government-sponsosored Abortion Bill.
    Women have lead the way in alerting us all to the need for greater state intervention and action in domestic matters, like family violence, elder abuse and child maltreatment. Yet on the matter of abortion, why are we being pushed in the opposite direction- to privatise the issue and to dispense with all community criteria related to just and sufficient cause in the taking of early individual human life. The 2008 Bill is also clearly at variance with the strict justification criteria of 1. Terminal diagnosis 2. Intolerable Pain and 3. Voluntary initiation by the person most affected in the Assisted Dying Bill for the Terminally Ill.. Thete was something quite unbalanced about the 2008 Abortion Law. It was neither small “l” liberal nor socially just in its nature. I genuinely feel a wide cross-section of the community felt steam-rolled by that legislation.