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Why Family Planning Is a Smart Investment

Achieving universal access to contraception would save and improve millions of lives, and put societies on a faster track to shared prosperity. With so much at stake, the world should be devoting far more attention and resources to this goal.

PRAGUE – Political crises, scandals, and dysfunction continue to dominate the global news agenda. Unsurprisingly, therefore, many people missed the United Kingdom’s announcement last month that it will spend £600 million ($779 million) to provide 20 million more women and girls in the developing world with access to family planning.

But the UK government’s decision – based on research by the Copenhagen Consensus Center that shows family planning is one of the smartest possible development investments – is a vitally important one. Currently, hundreds of millions of women are unable to choose the number, timing, and spacing of their children – sometimes with fatal consequences, because unwanted pregnancies can claim the lives of young mothers and infants. Moreover, because universal access to contraception boosts growth, there are powerful economic arguments for making it a high priority.

In developing countries, 214 million women of reproductive age who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method. Nearly one-quarter of women in Africa, and one in ten in Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, have an unmet need for family planning.

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