When we talk about reproductive health and rights, we often talk about access to contraception.
Indeed, access to and information about contraception is a foundation of realizing reproductive health and rights. But there is so much more in the equation – and what it all boils down to, in the end, is choice.
Fully realizing reproductive health and rights means people can choose freely and for themselves the number of children they want, when they want to have them, and how they parent them. And this requires more than access to contraception – it means breaking down the social, economic, and institutional barriers that inhibit free or informed choice.
In its annual State of World Population report, The Power of Choice, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) examines those very barriers, country by country, that limit choices for women and families around the world. As UNFPA acknowledges in its report: no country has yet made reproductive rights truly a reality for all. The barriers are different in different places – some are larger, some are harder to resolve, than others. But they exist everywhere, meaning millions of women are having more or fewer children than they want.
In some cases, at an institutional level, health systems fail to provide access to a full range of contraceptive choices, or technology to assist women having trouble conceiving. Legal systems limit who can access essential services, including safe abortion, and when. Education systems fail to inform young people of their reproductive rights. And policies on parental leave and available, quality childcare are lacking.
Other times, economic barriers, like jobs with long hours and low pay, or health or childcare services that are unaffordable, put reproductive rights out of financial reach. And, around the world, persistent social barriers and gender inequality put women in a position where they may not be able to fully know or exercise their rights, or have the power and independence to make the choices they want.
To bring these complexities to life, UNFPA outlines a number of case studies of countries with different barriers – and, in some cases, solutions – to realizing reproductive rights.
Read the full article about reproductive rights by Seema Jalan at United Nations Foundation.
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