This year’s UN theme for International Women’s Day is, “equality for women is progress for all.” That is particularly true of reproductive health. Women unable to decide for themselves how many children to have and when to have them are vulnerable to the disruption of their education and employment by pregnancy. The consequent loss of human capital undermines a country’s social and economic development as well and limits individual women’s opportunities.
Early, frequent or unplanned pregnancies are more likely to lead to maternal or child mortality and morbidity. There are about 250,000 maternal deaths annually, the great majority in developing countries. A further 10 million women suffer serious and long-lasting health problems from childbirth. This puts a huge burden on underfunded health organizations.
Unplanned pregnancies are a driver of the rapid population growth, which holds back the development of the poorest countries and creates the conditions for conflict over limited resources.
Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters commented, “There remain huge gaps between the positions of men and women in many countries. Barriers to the use of modern family planning are a key cause. According to the UN, in subSaharan Africa, 25 per cent of women of reproductive age who are married or in a union have an unmet need for family planning. We call on all governments to do more to ensure universal access to quality family planning methods and services.”