Promoting birth control in developing countries has long been promoted as a means of reducing poverty rates and improving economic outcomes for women. Now, a major new study has called into question the development logic underlying these initiatives.
The supposed link between contraceptives and improving women’s lives in developing countries has been almost universally accepted by major western philanthropic organizations, governments, and charitable institutions. This assumption is a cornerstone belief of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “If you don’t give women access to contraceptives you are locking them into a cycle of poverty,” Melinda Gates said in 2018 regarding Burkina Faso, according to News24.
The Gates Foundation has long prioritized contraceptive access in the developing world, hoping to reach 120 million women in developing countries by 2020 with “the longer-term goal of universal access to voluntary family planning,” And why? Because “when women and girls have access to contraceptives and care that enable them to make informed decisions, they are more empowered to live their lives as they — and not others — choose,” claims the group’s website.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) uses similar reasoning. “Family planning is central to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and it is a key factor in reducing poverty,” the UNFPA’s website claims. The lack of contraceptives for hundreds of millions of women, they believe, “threatens their ability to build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.”
New study finds no link between birth control and improved outcomes for women
But as reported in Time magazine, a major new study has shattered the assumed premise of decades of development assistance, having found “no long-term health or economic benefits” of such programs.
The new study, published on July 5 in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal, reexamined data from a 12-year-long study on women in Matlab, Bangladesh, that observed whether women in rural and traditional villages would use contraceptives if made available and if obstacles were removed. Women from more than 70 villages took part in the study, and the result was that most participants did, in fact, use the contraceptives that were offered to them.
Dr. Randall Kuhn, the study’s main author, then reexamined the data collected from the study 35 years later. The international team of researchers he assembled set out to determine whether the 1,820 women who used contraceptives in this Bangladesh study had better outcomes than those who did not.
The results upended decades of international development dogma. The study found no improvement in economic or health outcomes. “We don’t see any changes in economic prospects,” Kuhn said, according to Time. “We don’t see positive changes in health. The one change that we do observe is that women in the treatment area have slightly higher body mass index.” As the Time article notes, the study even found that those who used contraceptives sometimes found themselves worse off than those who did not avail themselves of contraceptives and had large families.
Vindication for Culture of Life Africa
Obianuju Ekeocha, Culture of Life Africa’s founder and president, has raised grave concerns about the negative effects of promoting abortion and contraception to African women. One of her sharpest criticisms is that these programs ignore real, more urgent needs expressed by the people these programs claim to help — necessities as basic as clean water and food. “If you speak to the ordinary woman on the streets of Africa, what is she asking for? She’s asking for food. She’s asking for water. She’s asking for basic health care. And contraception continues to be about the last thing she would ever think of,” Ekeocha said in a 2017 BBC interview.
In 2012, Obianuju Ekeocha wrote an “An African Woman’s Open Letter to Melinda Gates,” after Gates pledged $4.6 billion to fund birth control in developing countries. In her letter, Ekeocha lamented the negative effects of such a policy, and offered an impassioned plea for the real necessities of the developing nations in Africa. To Ekeocha, Africans need “good health care systems (especially prenatal, neonatal and pediatric care),” “food programs for young children,” as well as “good higher education opportunities.” She also called for “support for micro-business opportunities for women” and support for the “established NGOs that are aimed at protecting women from sex-trafficking, prostitution, forced marriage, child labor, domestic violence, sex crimes, etc.”
Dr. Kuhn’s new study reinforces Ekeocha’s argument. Instead of being the magic bullet that the Gates Foundation, UNFPA, and other organizations have claimed would cure poverty and suffering, birth control has no positive effects on women’s economic or health outcomes, and distracts from the true needs of Africans and others. The billions of dollars poured out to birth control and abortion-promoting programs would have better spent on food, clean water initiatives, and education.
These large philanthropic organizations fund major international promoters of abortion like MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes International) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, as Live Action News has reported. Although UNFPA claims it doesn’t fund or promote abortion, reports have shown otherwise. The organization certainly promotes abortion — often subtly — and has been accused of being complicit with the Chinese government’s policy of forced abortions and sterilization in its genocide against the Uighurs.
“The main translation of our results is that you shouldn’t expect [family planning] programs to improve women’s economic wealth,” Kuhn said of his study, according to Time. “If you want them to improve women’s economic well-being, you would need to do a bunch of other things.”
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Author: Laura Nicole
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