A practicing Catholic, Melinda Gates, recently delivered a talk at TED, putting birth control back on the global agenda.
Gates said that the topic of contraception has become a hot topic in recent years, but asked whether it should be.
She believes that many of the world’s social change issues depends on ensuring that women are able to control the number of children they have and the rate at which they have them.
Gates said that over 1 billion people will have sex this year and that in her view all these men and women should be free to decide whether they do or do not want to conceive a child, and they should be able to use birth control to help them decide.
“I think you’ll have a hard time finding many people disagreeing with this idea,” she said.
“They want to power to control their own lives.”
Gates said that birth control that is so widely accepted in private brings a lot of opposition in public.
“Birth control has almost completely and totally disappeared from the global agenda, and the victims of this paralysis are the people of sub Saharan Africa and South Asia.”
Gates cited statistics that in Germany 66%, El Salvador 66% and Thailand 64% used contraception.
“It’s about what you’d expect,” she said.
However Gates pointed out some inequalities in using in contraception
- In Uttar Pradesh, one of the largest states in India, only 29% use contraception
- Nigeria 10%
- Chad 2%
- Senegal 12%
Using Senegal as an example, Gates said that rather than using other methods, women in Africa prefer a three monthly injection but every other time they go to the clinic to receive the injection the clinics are out of stock.
As a result 100,000 say they don’t want to be pregnant and die in child-birth, and there are another 600,000 who do not want to be pregnant and they give birth, only to have the baby die within the first month of life.
This is not about abortion, nor population control, it’s about the equality of fertility choice for women.
“One of the simplest and most transformative things we can do is to give everybody access to birth control methods that almost all Germans have access to, and all Americans.
“As long as we are really clear there is a global movement waiting to happen and get behind this totally uncontroversial idea.”
Growing up in a Catholic family and still considering herself a Catholic, Gates said the nuns made service and social justice a high priority in the school.
“Today in the Foundation’s work I believe I’m applying the lessons I learned in high school,” Gates said.
“In the traditions of Catholic scholars, the nuns also taught us to question received teachings. And one of the teachings we girls, my peers questioned is, is birth control a sin.”
Gates says it is fair to ask whether separating sex from reproduction will promote promiscuity, but said her decision to use birth control was not about promiscuity, but about allowing her to fulfill the plan she had for her life.
In this significant talk, Gates makes the case for the world to re-examine the issue of birth control, an issue she intends to lend her voice to for the next decade.
News category: World.