In its annual report released on November 14th, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) declared that it will now consider contraception a global human right. The report, titled “The State of World Population 2012: By Choice, Not by Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights and Development,” conveys the basic message that contraception is a “human right” and is essential to the “sustainable development” of nations. The report insists that legal, cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning methods infringe upon women’s human rights.
Currently, 222 million women in developing countries have little to no access to family planning. UNFPA believes that an additional $4.1 billion is needed to provide for current family planning resources. UNFPA estimates that maternal and newborn health costs would decrease by $11.4 billion if voluntary family planning was made available to everyone in developing countries.
Along with the economic costs, UNFPA claims that ignoring the right to family planning results in poverty, poor health, and gender inequality. By enabling individuals to choose if and when they want to have children, both women and their children are more likely to live healthier, longer lives. According to a statement from UNFPA Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, “Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development … Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labor-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”
However, this classification by the UNFPA is not legally binding and the United Nations cannot force nations to take any immediate action following the release of the report.