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UN declares contraception universal human right

The UN Population Fund (UNPF) [official website] annual report [text, PDF] released Wednesday highlights family planning as an essential human right that has positive effects on economic development. The "State of World Population 2012" report details the reasoning for considering contraception a human right, the benefits of access to family planning and what this approach means for the international community going forward. The report specifically focuses on the benefits women and children in poor countries will receive should governments take certain steps to recognize the right to family planning. Investment in family planning, the report argues, is a necessary part of all reproductive health services. It argues:

Recent estimates of unmet need indicate the significant levels of investment necessary to uphold the right of the world's people to family planning. High levels of unmet need for family planning will be increased in the coming years by the large generation of young people entering their reproductive years. Family planning has been shown to be one of the most cost-effective public health interventions ever developed. Thus any decision regarding how to invest in family planning must counterpose its costs against the range of benefits it brings to individuals, households and nations. ... Improved access to family planning extends life expectancy for both mothers and children, increases incentives to invest in schooling and other forms of human capital, creates opportunities for participation in labour markets, raises the return to participation in labour markets and results in higher incomes and levels of asset accumulation. These add up to significant benefits, particularly if declines in fertility occur quickly enough to generate a demographic dividend
This is the first time the report has explicitly referred to access to family planning as a universal human right.

The right to contraceptives, particularly funding issues, continues to be a global issue. Last month France approved [JURIST report] a bill to pay for contraceptive and abortion coverage for minors. The day before that, a US federal appeals court declined [JURIST report] to rehear a Texas Planned Parenthood funding case. In September an Illinois appeals court ruled [JURIST report] that pharmacists can refuse to dispense birth control drugs. Controversy still surrounds contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act as it relates to religious freedom [JURIST feature].

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