NEW YORK — A United Nations population report calling for global contraceptive access has drawn fire from doctors and pro-life advocates who say the funding would be better spent preventing maternal deaths.
“A push to increase spending on contraceptives in developing countries by the United Nations Population Fund is at best misguided and at worst harmful to women and families,” Dr. John Brehany, executive director of the Catholic Medical Association, told Catholic News Agency Nov. 15.
On Nov. 14, the United Nations Population Fund released its annual report on the “State of World Population.”
This year’s report — titled “By Choice, Not By Chance” — links family planning to international development, declares it a global “right” for women and calls for the removal of any social and financial obstacles to it.
UNFPA included some population-control advocacy and depicted access to family planning as a “sound economic investment.” It also claims that the use of contraceptives will “improve” global health.
Brehany countered, however, that oral contraceptive pills “negatively impact women’s health in significant ways — by increasing the incidence of breast cancer, strokes and STDs.”
He also pointed out that an article in the January issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases found that the use of injectable contraceptives in Africa has been shown to double the risk of HIV infection.
“Women’s greatest needs,” Brehany said, “are for education and health-care resources for prenatal care, safe childbirth and general health. Providing resources for natural methods of fertility awareness and regulation are not only cheaper than artificial contraceptives; they are better for women’s health and for the stability of marriages.”
The UNFPA report summary said family planning is “almost universally recognized as an intrinsic right” that should be “available to all.” It said family planning should be promoted as “a right” which enables “a whole range of other rights.”
Wendy Wright, an official at the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute and the former head of Concerned Women for America, called this “ludicrous.”
“The U.N. doesn’t have the authority to declare contraception a human right, but particularly an agency of the U.N. doesn’t have the right to declare something a human right; it debases the entire concept of human rights to declare a commodity or a product a human right,” she said in a Nov. 15 interview with CNA.
“The U.N. hasn’t declared food a human right and yet we need food to survive. So it's ludicrous to think that contraception would be a human right when the most necessary items for survival have not been considered human rights.”
The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute's president, Austin Ruse, said that “it is precisely such debasement of authentic human rights which puts people in the developing world in grave danger. Human rights are about freedom of religion, democratic self-determination, freedom of assembly.”
Wright considers the UNFPA’s claim that “its products and services should be universally available and paid for by others” to be “crass self-interest.”
She also pointed out that “many countries are experiencing depopulation. Sadly, the UNFPA does not recognize the current status of the world’s population and that the most serious problems are ones of depopulation, not overpopulation.”
The report further claims that meeting the need for family planning for its estimate of 222 million women who lack it would cost some $8.1 billion every year.
Wright said that in light of the current fiscal crisis being experienced by most nations, “Right now seems to be a bizarre time for UNFPA to be claiming that its pet project ought to be getting an additional $8 billion a year.”