Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Importance of Contraceptives in International Relations

I wrote this for my International Relations class, but the information here is so important for people to know. It's based off of someone from Amnesty International recommending a policy to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  It's not the best thing I've written (I was sick and on cough syrup & codeine the whole time), but the information still stands.  I also have the sources if anyone requires them.
            Amnesty International has a long history of fighting for human rights.  Since their beginning in 1961, they have brought numerous wrongdoings out of hiding and into the vision of the world.  Many of these discriminations have occurred against women.  In fact, Amnesty International has a specific division for women’s rights.  Included in this section are Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
            Access to affordable and needed health care and information is a human right.  Many women, however, cannot access it due to gender discrimination, lack of education, poverty, societal status, and violence against women.  Health issues that deal with sexual and reproduction issues are particularly challenging for these women to deal with.  Amnesty International firmly believes that women have a right to health care that deals with their specific needs as females.  
            There are numerous issues that are covered under the Sexual and Reproductive Rights division, but a very important matter is contraception.  Education on contraception is lacking throughout the world.  Women need to know basic information about preventing sexually transmitted diseases as well as preventing pregnancy.  Not only do women have the right to protect themselves from diseases, they deserve the ability to plan their families.  When women can choose when or whether to have kids, it affects all areas of life.  All human rights are interdependent, so women’s health is linked to their families’, communities’, and nations’ well-being.1
Statement of the Problem:
            An estimated 222 million women have an unmet requirement for contraception and are currently not using any family planning method.2  This lack of family planning information and materials causes many issues worldwide.  In fact, only 14 of 88 developing countries have reasonably priced family planning available.3  The international community, including the United Nations4, has declared family planning a basic human right.  Contraceptives are fundamental to how women choose to live their lives; they enable women to become more educated, more equal, and more empowered.5  Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights directly affect the United States, because it is intertwined with the world’s population as well as other nations’ economic statuses.
            By providing contraception to women, the overall health and vitality of nations improves.   Contraception reduces sexually transmitted diseases, most notably, HIV/AIDS.  This not only decreases the number of adult with diseases, but also the number of children who will be infected.It also decreases the number of maternal deaths worldwide.  Family planning allows for the spacing of pregnancies and the prevention for women who are too young or too old to have a healthy pregnancy.  Ill-timed and closely spaced pregnancies contribute to the world’s high infant mortality rates.  Adolescent women are more likely to have preterm and low-weight babies.  These babies also have higher infant death rates.  Older women are also at an increased risk for complicated pregnancies.7  In 2012 alone, contraception will prevent 218 million unintended pregnancies in low-income nations.  This will also prevent 118,000 maternal deaths and 25 million miscarriages.8  Women and children’s health is not the only benefit of contraception, either.
            According to Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, an executive director for UNFPA (The United Nations Population Fund), “Family planning has a multiplier effect on development.  Not only does [it] help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also… empowering women.  Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered…, and economically productive.”9  Women, especially adolescent women who frequently quit school due to unplanned pregnancies, can plan their families, enhance their education, and participate in the public life.  This includes paid employment, which helps not only the woman’s family but also the economy of her country.  It also helps the education of her children.  When families are smaller, parents invest more in their children, and these children tend to stay in school longer.10  The World Health Organization states that “family planning is key to slowing unsustainable population growth.”  With too many people, many of whom are uneducated, much stress is placed on the economy and the environment of those countries.11 
Policy Recommendation:
            I suggest that the United States shows support for the worldwide education of contraception.  Numerous agencies have declared it a fundamental human right.   Without education and access, however, this right is not being exercised.12  Contraception is not only an important part of the health of nations, but also of the people’s health within these nations.  
            In 1966 former communist leader Nicolae Ceausescu outlawed contraception and abortion in Romania.  He wanted a larger population, but his people were so poor that they could not support more children.  After his new law, the maternal death rate tripled.  Thousands of children were placed in orphanages, and many moved to the streets.  As of 2001, there were still 20,000 children living on the streets.13  The terrible reality of a world with no contraception is poor, unhealthy, uneducated, homeless, and dead people.  This leads to a crippled economy, an anemic environment, and a weak nation.
            The United States is a world leader in many areas, and I think that the access to and education of contraception should be another part.  It is beneficial to the environment, all nations, and most importantly, the people.  When people are happy and feel in control of their lives, their standard of living improves.  Everyone deserves that.