Economic case for family planning - UN


Increased access to family planning has proven to be a “sound economic investment”, according to the 2012 report on the state of the world population, published yesterday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Speaking at the Dublin launch in the Royal College of Physicians, Alanna Armitage, director of the UNFPA’s Geneva office, expressed “our gratitude for Ireland’s strong support to UNFPA”. She said this “allows us to continue our work towards delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled . . . Despite promises, resolutions and conventions that affirm the value of family planning, it remains out of reach for a staggering 222 million women in developing countries,” she said.

She said the UNFPA report, entitled By Choice, Not By Chance, made the case that “voluntary family planning is a human right and because it’s a right, everyone who wants access to it, should have access to it”.

Ms Armitage added: “For just about one dollar for every person on earth, everyone could realise this right.” The data in the report showed that “access to family planning actually unlocks unprecedented rewards, both at the individual and national levels, where it can contribute to economic development”.


A recent study predicted that if the fertility rate fell by just one child per woman in Nigeria in the next 20 years, the economy there would grow “by at least $30 billion” or €23.6 billion.

Dr Niamh Reilly, co-director of the Global Women’s Studies Programme at NUI Galway, said the report was “particularly to be welcomed because of the way in which the rights-based approach is brought back to centre-stage”.

She added: “We also need to name the reality that there is a great deal of political opposition to reproductive rights and the right to family planning.

“Those of us who have worked in the international arena over the years as part of campaigns and initiatives to advance women’s human rights and reproductive rights know very well that well-organised, ultra-conservative, transnational movements are very active in UN policy domains.” These groups had the objective of “stalling advancement” and rolling-back achievements in the area of reproductive rights, Dr Reilly said.

Kevin Baneham, chairman of the Irish Family Planning Association, said the maternal mortality ratio of six per 100,000 live births in Ireland contained in the report was “considerably higher than other countries” at a similar level of development.

“I wish it were the case that Ireland was the safest place in the world for women to have children, but from the report that doesn’t seem to be the case,” he said.

Commenting on the “very tragic” news of the death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway, he said: “The question I would like to have known is, why wasn’t the termination performed in that case?”

Key points

* 61 per cent of Irish women aged 15 to 49 use modern methods of contraception, compared to 57 per cent worldwide and only 1 per cent in Somalia, the poorest-performing country in the category

* The adolescent birth rate in Ireland is 16 (per 1,000 women, aged 15-19), compared to a world average of 49 and a rate of 116 in the least-developed countries

* The total fertility rate per woman in Ireland at 2.1 is slightly above the world average of 2

* 222 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for family planning