Sniping from the sidelines
July 11th 2012 | Tags: Family planning and reproductive health
The London Summit on Family Planning has the potential to deliver a step change in the use of family planning methods by the poorest of the world, after a decade of relative neglect. This is a good thing. The use of modern family planning methods reduces the huge toll of death, injury and illness from illegal abortions and from pregnancies which are too closely spaced, too early in the mothers’ life, or simply at the wrong time. It allows women and couples to decide whether and when they have children, enabling women to gain paid employment and to play a more active role in the life and leadership of their communities. By avoiding the cost of large families, it enables households, communities and countries to follow the path of economic progress. Smaller families also help with resource sustainability, protecting biodiversity and reducing the impact of climate change by reducing the human impact on the environment.
Yet Betsy Hartmann and some of those others in the west who claim to support the rights of women in the global south can only criticise progress in family planning provision, using historical examples or poorly evidenced allegations to warn of coercion. No-one today is suggesting that coercive approaches are used: all those involved are committed to human rights. The real coercion is the “coercion” of the unplanned pregnancies which disrupt and not infrequently end the lives of poor women, in a way that that women in the west have not experienced for decades.
Such critics should think about what is really in the interests of the poor women they claim to be concerned about, before they seek to undermine the real progress that a greater use of family planning methods would represent.