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The United Nations has a message: access to contraception is a human right that will save lives and more than $11 billion in health costs, as well as help remove gender inequalities around the world.

The United Nations Population Fund recently released The State of the World Population 2011 report, titled “By Choice, Not By Chance.” The 140-page report argues for greater accessibility to family planning and contraception. Currently, 222 million women and girls in developing countries do not have access to contraception or family planning.

“Family planning is a human right. It must therefore be available to all who want it,” wrote executive director Dr. Babatunde Ostimehin. “But clearly this right has not yet been extended to all, especially in the poorest countries.”

Family planning has been linked to improved health, improved personal income, reduction in infant death, and lower health care costs. Access to family planning is also an important factor for gender equality, because high fertility rates tend to trap women in poverty.

If contraception is a human right, that means that those who prevent access to contraception are violating human rights (Hear that, America?). If women are to achieve equality, they need to be able to choose when and how many times they give birth — and there’s no way to do that without contraception.

 

Images from flickr.com/thestarshine, unfpa.org