Yes, we still need to talk about birth control

  • Posted on Dec 10, 2014 at 7:41

Five years ago, I joined an organization called Woman Care Global whose mission is to provide access to contraception for the 220 million women across the globe with an unmet need. Throughout those five years people have repeatedly said to me, “You’re still talking about contraception? Hasn’t that been solved?” At first, I saw it as an opportunity to educate and inform. Now – honestly – it pisses me off.

Advocating for women is like needing water. Yet the data shows that women are not treated as valuable. For example, women make up half of the population but they represent 70% of the world’s poor. There’s even a term for it – Feminization of Poverty. UNIFEM describes it as “the burden of poverty borne by women, especially in developing countries”. I describe it as one of the most unequitable dilemmas on the planet. There is a perfect quote that describes this, “there is nothing more unequal than treating equals as unequal!”

Do you know what has been a proven method to help women measurably change their economic status? Access to birth control. When women have the dignity to choose how many children they have and when to have those children, everyone’s lives improve. Proven yes, but not solved. Not even close.

People need reasons to keep talking about birth control options? Here are 5:

1. One of the leading causes of death for girls 15-19 is pregnancy and childbirth complications.
2. There are not enough options for women who can’t, or don’t want to, take hormones.
3. For every $1 spent on family planning, $6 is saved.
4. There are 80 million unplanned pregnancies each year.
5. More than 40 million abortions are performed worldwide each year.

Because I know how important it is, I get really excited when I come across articles or studies that show why family planning matters. Recently, it was a piece called Where’s Better Birth Control by Madeleine Schwartz in the New Yorker (11/21/14). It focuses on why we need innovation and more choices in contraception.

So, for the women who need access and for the women who have access but need more options, let’s not act like research and development have gone as far as they can. And – for everyone’s own peace of mind – please don’t ask if it’s still necessary to talk about birth control…unless of course you want too many people on the planet.

To read more by Saundra Pelletier: