Providing full access to contraception would cut maternal mortality rates by a third


The U.S. Affordable Health Care Act passed a reform requiring all emergency contraception and birth control pills to be free of co-payments or other deductibles as of August 1, 2011. The Obama administration confirmed that ruling today.


Kevork Djansezian

If all of the women in developing nations who wanted access to contraception actually received it, maternal mortality deaths would be cut by a third, new research has found. A series of studies, published by John Hopkins researchers in The Lancet and financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, show that providing better access to contraception would save more than 100,000 women from dying prematurely each year, The Independent reported.

Having too many children too close together increases the risk of maternal deaths, yet only one in five sexually active women in sub Saharan Africa use contraception, the Independent said. “Thousands of women die unnecessarily from pregnancies that they did not want to have, and that is a scandal," Professor John Cleland, who is not involved with the studies, told the Independent. 

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Providing contraception aid to developing nations has become low priority in recent years, as the international agenda instead has been focused on fighting AIDs and other diseases, the New York Times reported. Some religious groups in the US also object to providing contraception foreign aid. As a result, the proportion of international population assistance funds that went to family planning fell to just 6 percent in 2008, the Times reported, down from 55 percent in 1995.

Better contraception coverage may also protect countries from over-population. About 16 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where the average woman has four children, the Times reported, and the number of people living in those areas is expected to triple in this century. 

The news comes after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan recently made headlines for asking citizens to only have as many babies as they can afford. In the north part of Nigeria, the average woman has 7.3 children, the New York Times reported in April, putting severe strain on the area and on women. The population in Nigeria is expected to grow from 160 million to 400 million by 2050.