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Donors pledge to ensure access to family planning for millions of women and girls

A groundbreaking summit held in London has produced an unprecedented level of financial commitment in support of the right of women and girls to freely decide whether, when and how many children they will have.

A primary objective of the London Summit on Family Planning—held on July 11, 2012, and organized by the United Kingdom, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund—is to make affordable, lifesaving contraceptive services and information available to 120 million more women and girls in the world’s poorest countries by the year 2020.

"Reaching this goal could result in over 200,000 fewer women and girls dying in pregnancy and childbirth and nearly 3 million fewer infants dying in their first year of life,” summit organizers say.

Currently, an estimated 260 million women in developing countries have access to contraceptive information and services.  The summit leaders want to sustain that level and add 120 million more by improving access and distribution of contraceptive supplies and by breaking down financial, policy and logistical barriers that now limit access.

By the conclusion of the one-day meeting, organizers announced that the summit’s financial goal had been reached, with developing countries committing an additional $2 billion and the donor community committing an additional $2.6 billion over the next eight years.

Ipas was among the civil-society organizations, national governments, donors and members of the research community sending representatives to the summit. Representing Ipas, President and CEO Elizabeth Maguire urged that access to safe abortion services be an integral part of all family planning programs.

“We applaud the move to accelerate progress in family planning,” Maguire said, “but contraceptives alone are not enough. If women and girls are to have full reproductive rights, they must be able to have access to quality, safe abortion care—either at the family planning site or through referral to safe abortion services nearby.” This is the only way, Maguire said, to break the cycle of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion that claims the lives of 47,000 women each year.”

Ipas and other reproductive rights advocates also urged that rights, choice and equity guide the recommendations coming out of the summit: the right of women to make informed choices and voluntary decisions about contraception; the choice of a wide range contraceptive options; and the equitable distribution of services, so that services are available to the most marginalized populations, including women who are poor, disabled, HIV-positive, young or living in remote, rural areas.

The summit was held in the wake of two reports highlighting the serious implications of unmet contraceptive needs.

A report from the Save the Children Foundation says that pregnancy and childbirth are the biggest killers of teenaged girls. Meanwhile, a joint report by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund concludes that, in addition to significantly reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, increasing the availability of contraceptives would improve women’s health, reduces maternal deaths and result in overall cost savings.

Read Maguire's November 2011 blog from the International Conference on Family Planning, "Breaking the Cycle of Unwanted Pregnancy and Unsafe Abortion: A Call to Action."