As part of its monthly series Stories Behind the Statistics, “guest edited by FHI 360 on behalf of USAID’S IYWG, which provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people,” the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog features a story by Gaj Bahadur Gurung, program coordinator for the National Federation of Women Living with HIV and AIDS in Nepal, who discusses the impact of adolescent pregnancy on girls and young women in South Asia. He writes, “Policies and programs must both help prevent early and unintended pregnancy (for married and unmarried women) and mitigate the negative consequences for girls who do become pregnant. Programs should provide young women access to, control over, and informed choice of their sexual and maternal health services” (8/3).
Family Planning & Reproductive Health
On the first stop of a 10-day tour of Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stopped at the Phillipe Maguilen Senghor Health Center in Dakar, Senegal, where Awa Marie Coll-Seck, the country’s minister of health, “explained to Secretary Clinton how these operational centers dramatically improve maternal and child health,” according to a post in USAID’s “IMPACTblog.” Coll-Seck “also noted that USAID-supported distribution of insecticide impregnated mosquito nets across the country had drastically reduced the incidence of malaria,” according to the blog, which adds that Clinton “was pleased to hear that the United States is playing a key role in helping meet one of its biggest challenges: decentralizing services so they are available at the village level throughout the country.” In an address several hours later, “Clinton invoked the Senghor center … saying she was highly impressed by the integrated nature of the facility” and that “[i]t was a successful model she hoped could be duplicated throughout Senegal and the entire West African region” (Taylor, 8/1).
“With one billion people chronically hungry and Earth’s population expected to increase by 50 percent before the end of the century, it’s time to get serious about family planning,” a Los Angeles Times editorial states. “At one point, the prevailing wisdom was that nations needed robust birthrates to protect their economic welfare, and that if only we could produce food more efficiently, feeding the Earth’s burgeoning population wouldn’t be a problem,” it continues, adding, “Now â€¦ we know better. Or we ought to.” The editorial continues, “No one has a good solution. That’s why family planning assistance is one of the most important forms of humanitarian aid that the United States and other developed nations can provide.” It concludes, “Without the necessary resources and an existing economy prepared to absorb large numbers of new workers, nations that promote high birthrates set themselves up for economic distress and political unrest” (8/10).
In a post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Perri Sutton, an associate program officer on the family planning team at foundation, discusses Senegal’s history of contraceptive stock-outs and Minister of Health Awa Marie Coll-Seck’s plan to “fix the problems that result in stock-outs and ensure that women have access to the full range of contraceptive options.” In pilot tests of an “informed push” model of contraceptive distribution, “[n]ot only have stock-outs been eliminated across the clinics involved, but the average weekly dispensing of a variety of contraceptives has increased dramatically,” Sutton says, adding, “As this system is rolled out across the country, Senegal will have confidence in national estimates of future demand for each product.” She concludes, “Every woman deserves the ability to decide whether, when and how many children she has. Senegal’s Minister of Health is taking bold action to provide the women of her nation with this life-saving opportunity” (8/8).
Politico examines the Republican Party’s stance on abortion policy compared with abortion laws in other countries worldwide, stating, “No other nation in the Western world restricts abortion as severely as the Republican Party is calling for in its draft platform.” The article cites statistics regarding other nations’ abortion-related laws from the U.N. report “World Abortion Policies 2011.” According to Politico, “Mitt Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, says he does not support a ban on abortions under any circumstances. He has said it should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. But the Republican National Committee slapped him down.” The article continues, “‘This is the platform of the Republican Party,’ committee Chairman Reince Priebus told MSNBC on Tuesday. ‘It’s not the platform of Mitt Romney’” (Brinkley, 8/27).
Bloomberg News examines family planning in the Philippines, where “[o]ne in five women of reproductive age … have an unmet family planning need, the U.N. Population Fund says, leading to unintended pregnancies and population growth twice the Asian average.” The article focuses on a reproductive health bill in the country’s congress that would allow for “free or subsidized contraception, especially for the poor.” The bill “has been re-filed and blocked in each three-year congressional term since it was introduced in legislature 14 years ago amid opposition from the Catholic Church,” according to Bloomberg. However, with support from President Benigno Aquino, the bill “may be put to a vote in congress in three months,” the news service notes (Khan/Aquino, 3/27).
“Opponents of birth control don’t just want to limit access in the U.S., they want to slash U.S. support for international family planning programs. It’s a perennial debate, and it’s about to start all over again,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget “demonstrates the value the administration places on family planning,” as “funding for international family planning programs is preserved,” she writes, noting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent testimony to Congress about the budget proposal, in which “she consistently reiterated the importance of development as a key pillar of our foreign policy and national security strategy” and “the administration’s focus on women and girls as central to these goals.” Cooney concludes, “The president’s budget protects U.S. investments in family planning programs around the world. Now it’s up to Congress to make sure those funds remain intact” (3/5).
“Women who are at risk of unplanned pregnancy are also at risk of HIV, and vice-versa so separation of these services no longer makes sense. The global health community must work to bring family planning and HIV services together — and quickly — to save women’s lives,” by Dana Hovig, chief executive of Marie Stopes International, and Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, write in this RH Reality Check blog post marking International Women’s Day. The authors conclude, “We call on the public to urge leaders to support integration of services in the developing world. We encourage organizations working with us to support the integration of family planning and HIV services” (3/7).
Family Planning Summit Offers Opportunity To Integrate Reproductive Services With HIV, Other Health Initiatives
Noting that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.K. government will co-host an international family planning summit in London in July, Gavin Yamey of the Global Health Group at the University of California, San Francisco; Craig Cohen, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services at the University of California; and Elizabeth Bukusi, chief research officer and deputy director of research and training at the Kenya Medical Research Institute, write in a BMJ commentary, “More than 120 million women worldwide aged 15-49 years have an unmet need for family planning, which is due a renaissance after years of neglect.”
In this post in the Guardian’s “Development Talk Point” series, contributors Claire Provost and Jaz Cummins ask readers to weigh in on the issue of family planning and development, asking, “How has such a taboo topic become a global priority? What’s driving world leaders’ growing interest in women’s bodies? And what’s at stake in these debates?” They write, “We’ll discuss these questions — and more — in this month’s global development podcast, and are looking for your comments to shape the discussion” (6/19).