Family planning, one of the greatest public health achievements in human history, allows individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births. It protects the health of the mother and the outcome of each pregnancy. Family planning also allows parents the time and space to determine if they are able to care for more children, increasing the likelihood that any further children they have will be able to access health care, education, and other services. There is a huge opportunity for progress — right now — because around the world there is an estimated 225 million women who want to avoid a pregnancy, but who are not using an effective contraceptive method. We must Speak Out loudly and clearly, advocating to bring family planning information and services to all people, everywhere.
Like many of the other solutions capable of slowing down and stopping our global population growth, the fundamental right of individuals to decide, freely and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children to have is a human right all people should be promoting anyway. In other words, making family planning information and services available to anybody who might be interested is a stand-alone imperative, needing no further justification. Reproductive self-determination needs no further justification. But, when the coincident effects of meeting these human rights also helps to slow down population growth, that is a win-win for people, planet, and the other species with which we share Earth. It is worthwhile and ethically correct to celebrate family planning’s many benefits — not all of which relate directly to humans. After all, family planning at its root is not a technology or ideology, but an act of human will and personal agency. When that act is deemed to be a personal benefit by the individual adopter of family planning, and yet also has broader social or environmental effects, the outside observer has a right to celebrate.
There is good news on international family planning as well.
In 2012, the London Summit on Family Planning called for unprecedented global political commitments and resources that will enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020. This goal is now being championed by Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) — a global partnership that supports the rights of women and girls to decide, freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have. FP2020 works with governments, civil society, multi-lateral organizations, donors, the private sector, and the research and development community to foster innovative approaches to family planning challenges, improving supply chains, systems, and service delivery models — and procure necessary commodities.