Thursday, May 20, 2010

A proposal to distribute "the pill" worldwide

The U.S. recently celebrated 50 years of "the pill" the developed world's most popular contraceptive. It's something that most people in the under-developed world have never even heard of. In fact, large families are a status symbol in many parts of Africa. Parents will also have many children because the chances of those children dying are great, thay hope that a few of them will make it.

In his latest op-ed piece, Nicholas Kristof talks about a new study from the Guttmacher Institute. The study proposes distributing "the pill" to the women of the under-developed world. To start our snippet of this op-ed that we found at the New York Times, Kristof introduces us to one mother who doesn't want to get pregnant.

Here in Kinshasa, we met Emilie Lunda, 25, who had nearly died during childbirth a few days earlier. Doctors saved her life, but her baby died. And she is still recuperating in a hospital and doesn’t know how she will pay the bill.

“I didn’t want to get pregnant,” Emilie told us here in the Congolese capital. “I was afraid of getting pregnant.” But she had never heard of birth control.

In rural parts of Congo Republic, the other Congo to the north, we found that even when people had heard of contraception, they often regarded it as unaffordable.

America’s widely respected Guttmacher Institute, which conducts research on reproductive health, says that 215 million women around the world are sexually active and don’t want to become pregnant — but are not using modern forms of contraception.

Making contraception available to all these women worldwide would cost less than $4 billion, Guttmacher said in an important study published last year. That’s about what the United States is spending every two weeks on our military force in Afghanistan.

What’s more, each dollar spent on contraception would actually reduce total medical spending by $1.40 by reducing sums spent on unplanned births and abortions, the study said.

If contraception were broadly available in poor countries, the report said, more than 50 million unwanted pregnancies could be averted annually. One result would be 25 million fewer abortions per year. Another would be saving the lives of as many as 150,000 women who now die annually in childbirth.

Family planning has stalled since the 1980s. Republican administrations cut off all American financing for the United Nations Population Fund, the main international agency supporting family-planning programs. Paradoxically, conservative hostility to some family-planning programs almost certainly resulted in more abortions.

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