New UN Report Calls for Improved Family Planning Services in Developing Countries

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State of World Population 2012. Photo by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)Globally, an estimated 222 million people have no access to family planning services or supplies and risk unintended pregnancy, according to a report released Wednesday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The report, “The State of World Population 2012,” calls family planning a human right, identifying it as a “huge unmet need” for women, men and young people, “despite international agreements and human rights treaties that promote individuals’ rights to make their own decisions about when and how often to have children.”

Nevertheless, the lack of access is not limited to Third World nations, the report says. Even in developed countries “high levels of unintended pregnancy exist, especially among adolescents, the poor and ethnic minorities.” 

According to the report, numerous factors - including negative social pressures, gender discrimination and contraceptive shortages - are leading to more unintended pregnancies across the developing world, which in turn creates numerous social problems related to poverty and healthcare.

But, combating unintended pregnancies across the globe may require challenging traditional practices like child marriage, the report says.

An estimated 80 million unintended pregnancies are expected to occur in 2012, the report says, with analysts stating that approximately half will result in abortion. Improving family planning needs, the report says, could have resulted in an estimated 54 million fewer unintended pregnancies and 26 million fewer abortions in 2012.

The UNFPA said creating access to family planning services for individuals in developing countries would cost no more than $8.1 billion annually. Earlier this year the UNFPA, alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Kingdom Department for International Development, among other organizations, held a summit garnering $2 billion in commitments from developing countries, in addition to $2.6 billion in funding from donors, to improve worldwide family planning needs by 2020. 

The report calls for a “radical” increase in financial and political support to rights-based family planning across the world, with developing countries seeking to integrate family planning into “broader economic and social” contexts.

“Ensuring universal access to voluntary family planning is a matter of protecting human rights,” the report reads. “But it is also a matter of economic and social development.” 

Photo by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)