Life without family planning

A new World Bank report warns that poor countries, wealthy donors, and aid agencies are losing sight of the value of contraception, family planning, and other reproductive health programmes in helping to boost economic growth.

The report – Population Issues in the 21st Century: The Role of the World Bank – stresses the urgency of reducing high birth rates which are strongly linked with endemic poverty, poor education, and high numbers of maternal and infant deaths.

This is what the anti-contraceptionists hiding behind “pro-life” rhetoric aren’t telling us all as they bleat about beautiful, precious babies. The result of their programs is beautiful, precious babies dying in infancy or growing up in hopeless squalor to bring more beautiful, precious babies into poverty in their turn. Generation upon generation of misery and despair.

There’s a lot to digest in the article, let alone the full report. I’ll just highlight a few snippets:

of the estimated 210 million women who become pregnant every year worldwide, more than 500,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth, and about one in five of them resorts to abortion because of poor access to contraception.

The report says that some 68,000 women die each year as a result of unsafe abortion, 5.3 million suffer temporary or permanent disability, and many end up being ostracized within their own communities.

The report says that the globe’s highest birth rates are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, where average fertility remains above five children per woman. While demographic patterns are converging in many regions, countries that are lagging in fertility decline and mortality reduction are increasingly different from the rest of the world.

“The longer it takes for countries to move to a low-fertility, low-mortality pattern, the greater the danger that high-birth rate countries will continue to experience greater inequalities in education, jobs, life expectancy, and adult prevalence of HIV/AIDS, than their wealthier counterparts,” says Phumaphi.

fertility can also affect women’s jobs in the workplace. One cross-national study has suggested that the percentage of women in the labour force is directly related to national birth rates and that, for example, in Bolivia, there were strong links between women using contraception and women jobs outside of the home.

Again, in the Philippines, the average income growth for women with one to three pregnancies was twice that of women who had undergone more than seven pregnancies. Accordingly, the number of children a woman gives birth to affects her subsequent employment and income prospects, with the risk of further driving gender inequalities and perpetuating poverty.

The forced-birthers want to keep the spotlight on abortion as if that is the only aspect of reproductive choice that matters. We shouldn’t let them get away with using abortion to paper over the bigger picture of why family planning matters so much.



Categories: culture wars, Politics

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3 replies

  1. A letter to yesterday’s Age described abortion as a decision that women might make on a ‘whim’ due to the ‘inconvenience’ of pregnancy ‘for a few months’.
    Clearly written by an insensitive idiot, who also happens to be a bloke and a Christian.
    So here’s a heads up fellas. “Inconvenient” is when your car breaks down, or you run out of milk for your coffee. Pregnancy and motherhood come under the heading “Monumental and Life Changing”.

  2. Tigtog: good find.
    (1) You are right: one of the major culprits in this is the gross bias of spending by the US on programs in the third world (and indeed the US) that focus on chastity, not just for birth control, but AIDS control.
    (2) Examination of the figures for teenage fertility rates amazed me: more than 20% of teenagers pregnant in a given year for some countries? While the WB had a few headings for “education”, they did not include anything in the metrics they looked for (e.g. number of hours covering sexual health adolescents receive in schools) nor in their remedial recommendations. (See details of their methodology at the end of the report).
    (3) The other standout from the report was that a major contributor to the problem in some countries was the culture of males (data available only for husbands) who refused contraception. I doubt this was because of catholicism. The reasons used for avoiding contraception need investigation (it need not be pure hedonism but could be seen as a way of proving manhood – I don’t know), but the figures suggest to me that education efforts should not only target females, but males as well.
    (4) GDP has little to do with improvements in human health and related metrics, (see this page at the UNDP showing the extremely weak correlation) but the World Bank is philosophically biased. (I summarize a few different sources here to show Cuba is 10 times more effective than the US at turning per cap GDP into Human Development Indicators) and runs the only sustainable economy in the world. This twisted view of the World Bank is evident in another report on the WB page you reference where the WB investigates four latin american countries (not Cuba, conveniently) and thus concludes that private health systems are the way to go.
    The WB correctly pointed out a problem, and their responsibility to contribute to the remedy, but they didn’t look at all the appropriate metrics and (on past history) won’t be interested in promoting the most effective solutions used by poor countries (measured by per-cap price-parity GDP) that are having success. Empirically, socialism offers the best choice for poor countries. The WB won’t promote that!

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