According to the UN Population Fund’s annual report which was released in Geneva on Wednesday, access to contraception is a universal human right. This is apparently the first time that the report has explicitly stated that family planning is a human right.
Now, I’m not sure on what grounds you can describe contraception a human right. But then again, I’m not sure on what grounds you can say that anything is a human right these days. It seems that you just need someone with an important sounding title (preferably from the UN) saying something is a human right, and then it just needs to get repeated enough and then BOOM! Human right created.
Of course, if something is a human right, then someone needs to pay for it so that people who don’t have that thing can get it. And that is exactly what groups in Canada are urging. As part of its foreign aid package, Canada should be “doing more to ensure contraception is readily available to women in developing countries” said Action Canada for Population and Development. Its executive director, Sandeep Prasad had this to say:
“Meeting the unmet need for contraception would reduce the number of maternal deaths by one third, and enable women and girls to claim their basic human right to decide whether, when and under what circumstances to become pregnant…Canada can and should do better on this key human rights and gender equality issue.”
Suddenly, contraception is a human rights issue and to oppose funding it is therefore to be a BAD BAD PERSON. Now, I support girls and women wanting to decide whether and when and under what circumstances they get pregnant. But if you don’t have access to birth control, and you want to plan your family, perhaps you should reconsider your decision to have sex tonight. (I hate to imagine the comments that that statement will bring…)
Interestingly, the report estimates that if 120 million more women had access to family planning services, three million fewer babies would die in their first year of life. I find this argument extremely puzzling. The reason that the babies don’t die is that they are not conceived at all. So it is a choice of death within the first year or non-existence. Obviously the report thinks that non-existence is the better alternative. (We are all doomed to die, does that mean that the authors of the report think that we are all better off never being conceived?) Now, as the father of a four week old boy I can categorically state that even if he were to die before his first birthday, God forbid, he would still have given us a lifetime of joy and love and happiness. To suggest that it would be better that he were not conceived at all is quite simply wrong. It would be painful to lose him, but I would not prefer that he never existed at all!
I think that the report is here focussing exclusively on the figures – how do we reduce infant mortality throughout the developing world? The normal person’s answer: improve health services, water and food supplies. The UN Population Fund’s answer: increase contraception so that the infants are not born. No births, no infant mortality. What a perfect solution.