Jonathan Torgovnik for The Hewlett Foundation/Reportage by Getty Images

The Economic Benefits of Family Planning

The ability to decide when or whether to have children is not only a basic human right; it is also the key to economic empowerment, especially for poor women. But in too many developing countries, this right is being undermined by a lack of access to safe, modern forms of contraception.

NEW YORK – The decision to start a family is one of the most important choices a person can make. It is also a fundamental human right; only individual adults should have the power to decide whether, when, or how often to conceive. And yet, for millions of people around the world, this right remains unrealized.

More than 200 million women in developing countries who want to delay or avoid pregnancy are not using modern contraception. Women who are poor, less educated, or live in rural areas can face significant economic, cultural, and institutional barriers to birth control, and often turn to dangerous forms of pregnancy prevention out of desperation. If women had universal access to voluntary family-planning information and services, maternal deaths could be reduced by as much as three-quarters and infant deaths by as much as a fifth.

But family planning does more than save lives; it also saves money. For every dollar invested in reproductive health services, $2.20 is saved in pregnancy-related health-care costs. Moreover, the longer a woman waits to have children, the longer she can participate in the paid labor force, thereby boosting the economic health and prosperity of poor communities.

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