Population Matters

MEPs must support family planning aid

MEPs must support family planning aid

Only by promoting smaller families can we avoid dramatic population increases in the poorest countries.

Population Matters chief executive Simon Ross commented, “To end aid dependency, we must tackle population growth in the poorest countries. We call on those standing in the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament to commit themselves, if elected, to supporting the maintenance and increase in aid for population assistance and family planning.”

The biggest driver of the scale of future aid dependency, together with climate change, is population growth. The UN estimates that the population of Africa alone will rise from one billion in 2010 to more than four billion by 2100. This will put enormous pressure on resources of all kinds. Emerging services, from health and education to transport and housing, will struggle to cope. One could question whether there will be sufficient employment opportunities to meet demand, while the challenge of supporting this population can only divert the resources required for social and economic development. Such population growth will also be a contributor to increased migratory pressure on Europe’s borders.

Yet the EU, while increasing spending on reproductive health and family planning, often as part of wider health system strengthening, still spends relatively little in this area. The European Parliament and Commission have designated 2015 the European Year for Development. The EU is the world’s biggest multilateral donor and the third biggest donor after the US and UK, spending over nine billion euros per annum in bilateral aid. Of this, the EU spends around 90 million euros (1 per cent) on population assistance.

Of course, reproductive health is not just about lowering unsustainable birth rates. Reproductive health conditions are the leading cause of death and illness in women of reproductive age worldwide. For this reason, too, reproductive health has a claim to our attention and support.

There are those who oppose support for family planning on the basis that some of it might go to providing abortion services. However, the best way to lower the rate of abortion is to improve the provision of family planning, not to cut it. Countries in which abortion is illegal often have a higher termination rate than those in which abortion is permitted. A safe and legal abortion is much better than an unsafe and illegal one. Also, it is hardly appropriate for those in the EU, where abortion is generally available, to seek to limit access to abortion elsewhere.

We welcome the EU’s verbal and financial commitment to reproductive health and family planning and call on those standing as MEPs to support that commitment and to improve on it if elected.

Notes

Reproductive health conditions — including HIV / AIDS — are the leading cause of death and illness in women of reproductive age worldwide, and the second leading cause of death and illness when both men and women are taken into account.

More than 60 per cent of couples in less-developed countries used family planning services in 2006. Only 10 per cent did in 1960.

In 2010, 215 million women wished to avoid or postpone pregnancy but were not using modern contraceptives.

An estimated 250 million years of productive life are lost every year worldwide as a result of reproductive health problems. The poor disproportionately bear the consequences of poor reproductive health — especially impoverished women and young people.

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