Should poor people in developing nations use birth control if they choose?

It seems silly to me to even be answering the questions poised in the title: “Should poor people in developing nations use birth control if they choose?” But, I will indulge and give my opinion: Yes. The should be allowed to. They should have access to it.  There should be education programs about family planning (both in the US and abroad) that are not abstinence only. And, having worked internationally in health education and reproductive rights, this does seem like a no-brainer to me.

However, the first line of Kristoff’s op-ed piece in the New York times on Wednesday read:

The Bush administration this month is quietly cutting off birth control supplies to some of the world’s poorest women in Africa.

The rest was just as scary.  To see the article, click here.

Personally, I am a real believer in family planning.  If you look at poverty rates and then compare them with average number of children per family, there is a distinct correlation. In the past, and in some areas where subsistencefarming is the way of life, families need to be big.  They need to ensure that some of the children survive (this assumes that some will not) and that they have enough hands to work.  With the technology and medical advances, this should no longer be the case.  Certainly, it is not in the developing world. 

Part of family planning is teaching couples proactive ways to avoid unwanted pregnancies, thus avoiding dangerous–sometimes back-alley–abortions. Birth control and condoms are the best (easiest, mot reliable, and cheapest) ways for people to do family planning.

In the last weeks, “U.S. Agency for International Development ordered six African countries to ensure that no U.S.-financed condoms, birth control pills, I.U.D.’s or other contraceptives are furnished to Marie Stopes International, a British-based aid group that operates clinics in poor countries.”

This is unacceptable.

John McCain, instinctively, supported the plan. “When a reporter asked him this spring whether American aid should finance contraceptives to fight AIDS in Africa, he initially said, “I haven’t thought about it,” and later added, “You’ve stumped me.””

I believe that it is important that we use contraception as a fundamental part of battling AIDS. I also believe that poor people around the world should be able to plan their families and use contraception just as people in the US and other developing nations do without thinking. Furthermore, I think this plan backfires on it’s pro-life backers, increased unwanted pregnancies not only increase unwanted children, they also increase abortions.



  1. I can’t believe people are still voting for McCain when he backs such ideas!
    Of course poor people should have access to every birth control device that exists.
    Abstinence only and Billings are totally useless among poor people who are also uneducated and don’t understand properly how these methods work. Even if they do, the stakes are higher for them in case of a mistake!
    Also, many people ignore that sometimes poor people use sex as one of the few forms of entertainment affordable to them and might even prefer to have a baby because of social problems that have emotional consequences.
    If someone is not willing to permit use of contraceptives, they should at least legalize abortion, because they become the only exit possible to unwanted pregnancies and put women’s lives in danger, which is unacceptable, unfair and more immoral than abortion itself when pregnancies are due to rape and incest.

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