Next month in London, England, the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will convene a global summit on family planning. All Our Lives has endorsed two important human rights declarations created in anticipation of the summit.

“Women’s Human Rights Must be at the Center of the Family Planning Summit” warns:

Our experience, built over decades of work around the world, has taught us that the failure to take actions guided by women’s human rights – to health, to life, to live free from discrimination among others – can have devastating consequences. Policies that accept or tacitly condone forced sterilization, the coercive provision of contraceptives, and the denial of essential services to the young, poor and marginalized women that need them every day have violated, and continue to violate, women’s human rights.

Nearly twenty years ago, governments at the [1994 Cairo] International Conference on Population and Development agreed that respect for women’s reproductive autonomy is the cornerstone of population policy. Any return to coercive family planning programs where quality of care and informed consent are ignored would be both shocking and retrograde.

A global letter of support for the summit emphasizes a program of action to increase family planning access to the millions of human beings who currently lack it.

We applaud the London Summit on Family Planning for its commitment to work with poor and vulnerable populations to increase individual awareness, address socio-cultural barriers, and increase community acceptability of family planning, including comprehensive sexuality education. In particular, we applaud the initiative’s emphasis on empowering women and girls, and delivery through increased service provision. We encourage you to focus on providing information and services to those who have historically faced poor access to family planning, especially young people, poor women, people with disabilities; rural, indigenous, displaced and post crisis populations. Similarly, we encourage you to make linkages to other programmes including those for economic development, education (especially for girls), environmental protection, HIV/AIDS,maternal and child health, security and youth.

We commit to working with communities and reaching poor and vulnerable women and girls with evidence-based information so that they can make informed choices regarding their fertility and choice of contraceptive method.

Yes and yes. If we are the sole prolife group signing on to these statements, well, it’s got to start somewhere.

Comments

  1. @AllOurLives, I’m taking the time to read your web-site. In response to a comment you left on my blog post, I do agree that there are 200 million women globally who would like to have more control over when they do and don’t have children (and this should certainly be addressed), but I still disagree about how that is implemented.

    “The difference between voluntary contraception and coercive population control is like the difference between consensual sex and rape.”

    My own personal experience with contraception was not “voluntary” in the sense that I had no idea what was happening inside my body with the drugs given to me. I had taken Plan B, and I had used NuvaRing for about a year in my early 20s. For something to be voluntary, I think one needs to be fully informed. Yes, this is something we should take upon ourselves as patients, but it’s also something the medical field does not promote. I fear that in regions where women are not given the educational opportunities and resources we are given here in the west, their lack of education will be even more prominent than mine was. To me, that’s not voluntary.

    Secondly, many women I have seen interviewed or have worked with in my own life express the desire “not to get pregnant” anymore, but still are never told that they can have the option not to have sex. They take the obligation for sexual activity as a given. As long as they feel obligated to have sex, then no method of family planning (even Natural Family Planning) is going to “empower women”. This, in addition to concerns that pharmaceutical contraceptives are abortifacients, is why many pro-life groups only support NFP methods, because it is the only method that requires couples to 1) expect that a pregnancy may still occur, and 2) decide, together, that periods of abstinence are required in order to successfully avoid potential pregnancy. No other family planning method requires this kind of coupledom and mutual appreciation for the act of sex and an acceptance of the potential for pregnancy.

    Again, I’m reading your site for more information, but I do feel that the on-line petition to Melinda Gates is simply asking that a pro-life voice be heard in the global family planning debate. I’m in favour of that voice, and our readers can decide for themselves whether or not they are as well.

    Thank you for your comment at ProWomanProLife!

  2. Jennifer, thank you for your thoughtful and civil tone. We don’t always get that.

    The petition to Melinda Gates is *a* pro-life voice. It is not *the* pro-life voice. That is why we are here.

    Agreed, that for family planning methods to be truly voluntary, women need to be fully informed, in the context of a decent health care system that offers complete services. However, this is not an argument against any specific form of pregnancy prevention, including hormonal methods like Plan B and NuvaRing (which according to our research work wholly *before* fertilization, by the way; see under Resources > Factsheets and presentations).

    It *is* an argument for each woman who chooses to prevent pregnancy to learn about the complete range of methods and to determine the pros and cons of each one *for her and her partner specifically.*

    True, not having sex is an option–but not every woman wants that for herself, whether that means refraining from all forms of sexual contact or simply from penis-vagina sex!

    Having sex is an option, too. Of course it shouldn’t be an obligation, but a choice. But abstinence shouldn’t be an obligation for everybody either. Many women *want* to have penis-vagina sex while minimizing their chances of conception, and there is nothing wrong or bad with that! It is a matter of their right over *their* own bodies, just as freedom from coercive sex is.

    Natural family planning/fertility awareness methods (nfp/fam) work very well for some people. We support people’s right to practice them, as family planning freedom includes the right to choose/not choose any particular method.

    But for many women and couples, nfp/fam is disastrous. For example, some women have medical conditions/disabilities that directly interfere with or require medications that interfere with reading basal body temperatures and cervical mucus. Again, if women were fully informed about all methods and socially empowered to make *their own* choices, some would seek out nfp/fam, but a lot would want something else.

    It is a falsehood that nfp/fam is the only kind of family planning that can involve male/female cooperation and the consciousness that penis-vagina sex can still result in pregnancy even if it lowers the probability significantly. The cooperation of men can be enlisted in just about any method, and is indeed one of the best ways for birth control to get as close as possible to correct/consistent use effectiveness rates.

    Yes, no matter what method or methods are practiced, and no matter how well, there is a probability, however large or small, of unintended pregnancy. Being fully informed about one’s birth control means awareness of this probability. And it doesn’t automatically mean abortion if an unintended pregnancy does occur, no matter what anyone claims about a “contraceptive mentality.”

    Respect is about how the partners treat one another, and any child they might conceive, and how their larger communities support them in making nonviolent sexual and reproductive decisions. For some people, that might mean practicing abstinence or nfp/fam. But one size hardly fits all.