No matter what you were doing on World Population Day, you probably weren’t doing anything nearly as awesome or empowering as Melinda Gates.
You may remember hearing about how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made contraception and family planning a signature issue, attempting to reach out to women in developing countries who don’t have access to proper contraceptive services.
On July 11, World Population Day, Melinda Gates headlined the London Summit on Family Planning, which aims to raise $4 billion to provide family-planning services over the next 8 years to 120 million women around the world. Nearly twice that amount currently lack access.
She has also been stressing the health benefits of the campaign, while trying to keep it a non-controversial issue. This would necessarily involved avoiding the subject of abortion and talk of population control.
However, in an interview with Sanjay Gupta on CNN, Gates did made it clear that this is not population control by any means. “And I think that’s where we’ve gotten ourselves… in trouble on this issue,” she said. “Deciding about a family is a decision that needs to be made inside of a family. The pouplation is coming down in countries where there’s widespread access to contraceptives, but you’ve got to start at the bottom up.”
She added that it is important for her to give a voice to women in developing countries who are pregnant and already have multiple children, finding themselves incapable of feeding everyone in their family.
According to a study financed by the Gates Foundation and published in The Lancet, fulfilling demand for contraception for women in poor countries could cut worldwide maternal mortality by nearly one third. This could also make for 100 million fewer unintended pregnancies, 50 million abortions averted, and 200,000 lives saved. This also means it’s likely that poverty will decline, education rates will increase, and the overall health of women and children will improve.
Gates also appeared on The Colbert Report, where host Stephen Colbert asked her what she thinks about the controversy over these topics in the United States, and if she knows that in the eyes of some people, if you’re on birth control, you’re automatically a slut. She responded that “we’ve made it controversial in the United States and it doesn’t need to be. In fact, 90 percent of Americans say they find contraceptives morally acceptable. But because we’ve made it controversial, it’s come off the global health agenda.”
It’s really sad when a few extremists and obscene radio hosts make an issue a political deal that takes important resources away from millions of women who need them. However, it’s incredibly empowering to see Melinda Gates truly working to give a voice to women all around the world.