On October 9-11, the University of Washington School of Law hosted the Human Right to Family Planning Conference. It explored the relationship between the right to health and family planning – globally and locally, bringing together advocates, doctors, nurses, lawyers, public health professionals, pharmacists, politicians, academics and researchers, among others.
Speakers included Marleen Temmerman, Sofia Gruskin, Nancy Northup, Rajat Khosla, Susan Cohen, Purnima Mane and Monica Kerrigan, as well as many other experts who are working across various disciplines to ensure that family planning services and information are guaranteed for all people.
Over the course of the weekend, speakers called attention to troubling statistics in the area of access to family planning:
- 222 million women have an unmet need for modern family planning.
- Serving all women in developing countries who currently have an unmet need for modern methods would prevent 54 million unintended pregnancies, 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths.
- The majority of sexually active adolescents who do not want a child soon have an unmet need for modern contraception in many parts of the world.
And yet they also noted that women’s access to safe and voluntary family planning is a human right, which is grounded in: the right to life; the right to liberty and security of person; the right to health; the right to consent to marriage and equality in marriage; the right to privacy; the right to equality and nondiscrimination; the right not to be subjected to torture; the right to education; the right to decide the number and spacing of children; and the right to be free from violence.
A representative from the World Health Organization presented the priority actions that are needed to ensure that different human rights dimensions are systematically and clearly integrated into the provision of contraceptive information and services, namely:
- Non-discrimination in provision of contraceptive information and services
- Availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of contraceptive information and services
- Informed decision-making
- Privacy and confidentiality
While the conference celebrated the important work that is currently being done across disciplines to ensure that the right to family planning is respected, protected and fulfilled for all people, significant obstacles remain to achieving this lofty goal. Until the global community is able to overcome these obstacles, the unmet need for family planning will remain an unmet human right, and continue to threaten the health and wellbeing of women, their families and their communities.