On World Population Day, observed on Wednesday, July 11, the U.K. Government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are co-hosting the London Summit on Family Planning. The following are summaries of opinion pieces and blog posts published ahead of the conference.
- Ward Cates, Rose Wilcher, Michele Lanham, Huffington Post's "Global Motherhood" blog: Cates, president emeritus with FHI 360; Wilcher, a senior technical officer in the research utilization division at FHI 360; and Lanham, a research associate with FHI 360, write, "In the Summit dialogue and subsequent commitments, [conversations about contraceptive technologies and delivery] need to be balanced with commitments to women's rights, reproductive rights and female empowerment, which are inextricably linked -- one cannot be addressed without the other." They conclude, "Achieving th[e] outcomes [of the summit] will require that women's and girls' rights and gender equality are the foundation of the discussions at the event and the actions that follow" (7/10).
- David Olson, Washington Post's "Guest Voices" blog: Olson, who serves on the board of directors of Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH), writes that "there will be one constituency [at the London Summit] that might surprise some people -- people of faith, including Christians (Catholics, mainline Protestants, and evangelicals), Muslims and other faiths." He says, "Ray Martin, executive director of CCIH, was invited to the summit. He is working to continue the dialogue about the role [faith-based organizations] can play in advocacy and an expansion of family planning services," and outlines what the faith community expects to come out of the meeting (7/10).
- Scott Radloff, USAID's "IMPACTblog": Radloff, director of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health, writes, "Failing to address ... barriers [to family planning] and to help those who want to use contraception and consistently access family planning services, without discrimination or coercion, carries a very high price in terms of women's and children's health and survival, and the prosperity of their families, communities and nations." He concludes, "We need this summit to refocus priorities, energy, funding, policies, and support for family planning programs. If all other elements of the health continuum are to work, from child survival to prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission, women must have the right and means to determine whether and when they will have children" (7/10).
- John Seager, RH Reality Check: Citing recent U.S. and international "attacks" on women's reproductive rights, Seager, president of Population Connection, writes, "Universal access to contraception would slow population growth, give women and girls more power over their own futures and help communities and nations build a better quality of life for all of their people." He urges readers to advocate on behalf of family planning issues and calls on the U.S. government to "increase funding for voluntary family planning programs." He says, "An investment of $1 billion represents our nation's fair share of the total cost of meeting unmet need for family planning worldwide. It's a sound investment in our shared future that will save the lives of women and improve everyone's quality of life" (7/10).
- John Townsend, Erin Kiernon, Huffington Post's "Global Motherhood" blog: "To be truly successful, the Summit must focus on specifics -- reaching the women who are most in need, increasing access to the most effective methods, and addressing barriers to contraceptive use that are often overlooked," Townsend, vice president and director of the Population Council's Reproductive Health program, and Kiernon, who oversees the Population Council's communications and marketing, write. They conclude, "Contraceptive services are one of the best investments a country can make in its future. It's up to all of us -- at the Summit and beyond -- to act on this evidence, commit to delivering on our promises, and save women's lives" (7/10).
- Robert Walker, Huffington Post Blog: "The London family planning summit is genuine cause for celebration, but it may be short-lived: the world's single largest contributor to international family planning, the United States, may be in the process of reducing its commitment, not increasing it," Walker, president of the Population Institute, writes, adding, "Since the Obama administration took office, U.S. support for international family planning has increased by about one-third, but a House Appropriations Subcommittee has approved a cut of nearly one-quarter for the fiscal year that begins October 1, 2012. A cutback of that size would go a long way towards negating the new commitments that are being made in London." He concludes, "We can't let that happen" (7/10).
- Alicia Yamin, Camila Gianella, Guardian's "Poverty Matters Blog": "Family planning is fundamental to reproductive health and rights, as it enables women -- and men -- to decide on the number and spacing of their children and, in turn, to exercise some choices over their life plans," Yamin, chair of the board at the Centre for Economic and Social Rights and director of the program on the health rights of women and children at Harvard University, and Gianella, a researcher at the Chr Michelson Institute in Norway, write. Citing recent reports of forced sterilizations in several countries, they write, "Amid the new enthusiasm for family planning as a cost-effective tool to promote sustainable economic development, it is critical that we don't lose sight of human rights concerns" (7/10).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.