11 July, the World Population Day, was marked by the Family Planning Summit held in London by the UK government and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. So far the charity was best known for its engagement in the fight with HIV/AIDS around the world but in April this year the Ms. Gates, a devout Catholic, announced her new mission would be to ensure better access to the means and methods of family planning to women who cannot afford it. It is estimated that in 2012 220 million women globally will not have access to contraception they need. Millions of these women will become pregnant and risk their health and lives during pregnancy, labour or abortion in unsafe conditions.
The aim of the Summit was to get funders’ and governments’ attention back to the needs of women and their families in terms of family planning. Big commitments were made, although not in an entirely transparent manner and it is difficult to say how the goals of increasing access will be implemented in practice – will women be able to choose freely the contraceptive method they want? Or perhaps the funds allocated before to projects covering a broad range of sexual and reproductive rights will be now moved to the limited window of FP provision. And what good is family planning without access to comprehensive sexuality education, without girls’ and women’s empowerment, changing social attitudes towards gender roles and good, patient-centered healthcare services? What are the possible effects of promoting long-term hormonal contraceptives over condoms in countries with rising numbers of new HIV infections? What with the fact that (according to Guttmacher Insitute estimates) this year alone some 21 million women will have abortions and thousands will lose their health and lives because the procedure took place in unsafe conditions? The Summit failed to answer these burning questions.
Read excellent analyses from Françoise Girard, International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC)http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/07/20/will-london-family-planning-initiative-measure-up and Marge Berer of “Reproductive Health Matters” Journal http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/07/16/morning-after-beginnings-an-assessment-fp-summit