The newly re-elected Obama administration has the right to protect and promote family planning, both domestically and throughout the world, a veteran House member said Wednesday.
"What the presidential election results mean is that millions of women here in the United States will continue to receive family planning services through Planned Parenthood, and that the United States will continue to fund the important programs of the U.N. Population Fund," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat.
Her remarks came with the release of a major report on global family planning by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) that says that 222 million women of reproductive age in developing countries are in dire need of affordable birth control, including abortion services.
If an additional $4.1 billion was directed to meet this need, the costs for maternal and newborn health care could fall by $11.3 billion a year, UNFPA said in its State of World Population Report for 2012.
The new UNFPA report offers "a roadmap" for policymakers to create the conditions that support people's rights to plan their own families, said Ms. Maloney.
Women and men everywhere need access to education, counseling and services on birth control and legal, safe abortion, she said. "This is a human rights issue," she added. "I think that was the fundamental lesson to draw from our elections here in the United States."
The costs of ignoring the right to decide when and if to have children affects poverty, health and gender inequality, said the UNFPA report.
Family planning delivers "immeasurable rewards" to women, families, and communities around the world," it said, adding that if an additional 120 million women used family planning, as many as 3 million fewer babies would die in their first year of life.
"Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development," said Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, undersecretary of the United Nations and UNFPA executive director.
"Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women," he said.
Moreover, because family planning is a human right, any kind of obstacle blocking it "must be removed," he wrote in the report's introduction.
Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute, said the UNFPA report "bluntly states that 'ensuring universal access' to family planning means challenging traditional and local practices."
This is "another way of saying that any disagreement is to be squelched; that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are irrelevant when family planning 'rights' are at stake," she said.
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