And the problem is getting worse. Between 2003 and 2012, the total number of women in need of birth control because they wanted to avoid pregnancy increased from 716 million to 867 million — and most of that growth was among women in the 69 poorest countries, where birth control is already more difficult to come by. About 222 million women in developing countries want to use birth control but aren’t currently able to access a modern contraceptive method, and nearly three quarters of those women live in the world’s poorest countries.
“Unless the adequacy of family planning services improves more rapidly than it has in the past decade, he number of women with an unmet need for modern contraceptives will continue to rise, especially in the 69 poorest countries,” Jacqueline E. Darroch, one of the study’s authors, explained in a statement.
Last year, the United Nations declared access to contraception to be a “universal human right.” But that right isn’t being realized for millions of women around the world — and the continued failure to ensure better access to modern birth control results in serious consequences for women in developing nations. Higher rates of unintended pregnancies lead to higher rates of preventable deaths from unsafe abortions, as well as higher rates of infant deaths around the world. Furthermore, giving women the family planning resources they need is an important step toward helping those women achieve economic success and independence.
Unfortunately, persistent class divides plague contraception access even in wealthy nations. Here in the United States, poorer women still struggle to access the birth control method of their choice — and research has demonstrated that when cost barriers are removed, those low-income women choose more effective methods than they would have otherwise.