More Than 230 Million Women Will Lack Access To Contraception By 2015

The rising global demand for modern forms of contraception is outpacing women’s access to birth control, a new study finds. In fact, in just two years, an estimated 233 million women of reproductive age will lack access to the contraceptive services they would prefer to use — up from 221 million women in 2010.

Worldwide access to birth control has improved over the past two decades, and the percentage of women using at least one form of modern contraception with their regular sexual partner increased from 55 percent in 1990 to 63 percent in 2010. But according to new data published in The Lancet, there’s still a huge unmet need for family planning services in developing nations, partly because the demand for birth control services continues to rise. The researchers project that more than 80 percent of the unmet need will originate in the developing world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The international community recognizes that reproductive choice, and the ability to determine when and how to have a family, is a human right — particularly because family planning can save lives. An estimated 47,000 women die from unsafe abortions each year, and those deaths could be prevented by both expanded access to safe abortion services and wider availability of reliable contraception. But there’s still a long way to go before every woman around the world can realize her right to determine her own reproductive future.

Increased funding for international family planning programs is essential to continue delivering the preventative health resources that women need. But it’s also important to continue eliminating the pervasive societal stigma surrounding birth control, since some women are dissuaded from using contraception because their family or community doesn’t support it. That issue isn’t exclusive to the developing world, either. Here in the United States, enduring misinformation about certain types of contraception — particularly long-lasting forms of birth control and emergency contraception — also contributes to fewer numbers of women, and particularly young women, choosing the most effective forms of birth control.