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Politico Pro Examines Reaction To Melinda Gates’s TEDxChange Speech On Family Planning

Politico Pro examines the reaction to a speech delivered by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at a TEDxChange conference in Berlin on April 5. “Gates’s speech was primarily focused on explaining why family planning is important in the developing world,” according to the news service. Gates said lack of access to modern contraceptives is “a life and death crisis” because with family planning, the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and children could be saved annually, the news service notes. “But multiple global health experts heard her comments as an intentional effort to push back on the politicization of birth control in the United States following the Obama administration’s new contraception coverage policy, which they fear could spill over into global health policy,” the news service writes. However, “Gates Foundation spokesman Chris Williams said Gates was simply reiterating her long-standing support for family planning and that viewing these remarks in light of domestic politics would be ‘using the wrong lens,’” the article notes.

“‘For better or for worse, the president’s handling of the contraception issue has really ignited a much bigger conversation that Melinda has now taken global,’ said Tom Sheridan, a long-time political strategist who cut his teeth in the HIV/AIDS movement,” the news service writes. “‘What Melinda Gates is saying from Berlin, interestingly, is speaking to the … members of Congress who are out of touch with reality in terms of the importance of contraception in women’s lives here and the rest of the world,’ said Guttmacher Institute Director of Government Affairs Susan Cohen. ‘She’s also trying to communicate to the rest of the world that notwithstanding about what they may be reading in the newspapers, [birth control] is not controversial among American women or American men,’” she added, according to Politico Pro. “It was a decision by her and the foundation that this was such an important public health issue … [that] she wanted to elevate the discussion,” Jen Kates, vice president and director of global health and HIV policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, the news service writes. “When they decide to speak about something … it is noticed,” she added, Politico Pro notes (Feder, 4/11).