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Women And Girls in Poor Countries are Using Contraceptives More: Report

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni insists Africa needs more people, and has lambasted what he calls "the shrill cries of NGOs about population control."

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Health worker Sylvia Marettah Katende displays reproductive health products and information at a family planning exhibition in Kampala, Uganda. VOA
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More women and girls in poor countries are using modern contraception, signifying progress in efforts to involve women in family planning, according to a report released Monday.

The number of women and girls using contraceptives in 69 of the world’s poorest countries surpassed 317 million in 2018, representing 46 million more users than in 2012, said the report by Family Planning 2020, a U.N.-backed global advocacy group working to promote rights-based family planning.

Access to modern contraception helped prevent over 119 million unintended pregnancies and averted 20 million unsafe abortions between July 2017 and July 2018, although populations continue to soar across Africa and other low-income countries, the report said.

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Contraceptives, Wikimedia commons

“The best way to overcome this challenge of rapid population growth is by giving women and girls [the] opportunity to decide how many children they want to have,” Beth Schlachter, executive director of Family Planning 2020, told The Associated Press.

The mix of contraceptive methods has improved significantly in 20 of the surveyed countries, “meaning that more women are able to find the short-term, long-acting, emergency, or permanent method that suits their needs and preferences,” the report said.

But even as millions of poor women use contraceptives, millions more who want to delay or prevent pregnancy are still unable to access it, often due to lack of information, the report said, citing perceived health side-effects and social disapproval as deterrents.

Reproductive Rights, abortion, women
A community health worker holds up contraceptives during a lecture on family planning at a reproductive health clinic run by an NGO in Tondo city, metro Manila. VOA

Under Family Planning 2020, which grew out of a summit on family planning held in London in 2012, donors have pledged millions of dollars to bring contraception to 120 million more women and girls in developing countries by the year 2020.

Many of the 69 countries surveyed for the report are in sub-Saharan Africa, which is witnessing a population boom even as other parts of the world see dropping birth rates. Over half of the global population growth between now and 2050 will take place in Africa, according to U.N. figures.

According to the new report, contraceptive use is growing fastest in Africa, even though the region’s fertility rates remain high.

The most recent U.N. global population report estimates Africa’s fertility rate to be 5.1 births per woman.

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DMAU is a major step forward in the development of a once-daily ‘male pill

Because the region’s growing population is not backed by substantial rises in family incomes and the development of public infrastructure, there are concerns that a population boom may deepen poverty levels for many Africans.

Over the years, family planning has often been difficult to sell in heavily paternalistic sub-Saharan Africa, with the matter becoming controversial as some African leaders challenge the view that a growing population is bad for the world’s poorest continent.

Also Read: A New Step Towards Contraception for Men

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni insists Africa needs more people, and has lambasted what he calls “the shrill cries of NGOs about population control.”

In February, President John Magufuli of Tanzania encouraged polygamy, citing the 10 million more women than men in his country in advising men to marry “two or more wives” to reduce the number of single women. (VOA)

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Trump Can’t Deny Birth Control Coverage: U.S. Court

The case became more complicated after the Trump administration last month issued new birth control coverage rules that are set to supersede those at issue in the lawsuit before the 9th Circuit.

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A one-month dosage of hormonal birth control pills is displayed in Sacramento, Calif. VOA

A divided U.S. appeals court Thursday blocked rules by the Trump administration that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control.

The ruling, however, may be short lived because the administration has adopted new rules on contraceptive coverage that are set to take effect next month and will likely prompt renewed legal challenges.

Thursday’s ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned changes to birth control coverage requirements under President Barack Obama’s health care law that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued in October 2017.

States were likely to succeed on their claim that those changes were made without required notice and public comment, the appeals court panel said in a 2-1 decision.

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A man stands outside the main door of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals building in San Francisco. VOA

The majority upheld a preliminary injunction against the rules issued by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam last year. It, however, limited the scope of the injunction, applying it only to the five states in the lawsuit and not the entire country.

Another federal judge also blocked the rules, and her nationwide injunction remains in place.

An email to the Justice Department seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Obama’s health care law required most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, though it included exemptions for religious organizations. The new policy allowed more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing free contraception to women by claiming religious objections. It also allowed any company that is not publicly traded to deny coverage on moral grounds.

The Department of Justice said in court documents that the rules were about protecting a small group of “sincere religious and moral objectors” from having to violate their beliefs. The changes were favored by social conservatives who are staunch supporters of President Donald Trump.

Reproductive Rights, abortion, women, birth control
A community health worker holds up contraceptives during a lecture on family planning at a reproductive health clinic run by an NGO in Tondo city, metro Manila. VOA

California filed a lawsuit to block the changes that was joined by Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

“Today’s decision is an important step to protect a woman’s right to access cost-free birth control and make independent decisions about her own reproductive health care,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

‘Economic harm’

The states argued that the changes could result in millions of women losing free birth control services, forcing them to seek contraceptive care through state-run programs or programs that the states had to reimburse.

The states show with “reasonable probability” that the new rules will lead women to lose employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage, “which will then result in economic harm to the states,” 9th Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace, a nominee of Republican President Richard Nixon, wrote for the majority.

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Newer Contraception Tries to Engage Men. VOA

In a dissent, 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said the economic harm to the states was “self-inflicted” because they chose to provide contraceptive coverage to women. The states, therefore, did not have the authority to bring the lawsuit, said Kleinfeld, a nominee of Republican President George H.W. Bush.

Also Read: To Diversify The Industry, Apple Pledges To Train More Women

The case became more complicated after the Trump administration last month issued new birth control coverage rules that are set to supersede those at issue in the lawsuit before the 9th Circuit. Under the new rules, large companies whose stock is sold to investors won’t be able to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage.

Wallace said the new rules did not make the case before the 9th Circuit moot because they are not set to take effect until January. (VOA)