Melinda Gates and the Gates Foundation have announced a new initiative, and it’s one that might just bring a little mist to the eyes:
(The video is long, but like most TED talks it is well worth getting through.)
The Gates Foundation is working toward two new goals:
- Make contraception available to anyone in the world who desires it
- Instigate research into new forms of contraception, preferably methods that do not involve use of hormones
Indeed, the latter goal is something that has gone by the research wayside over the last 50 years. There has been no serious scientific work on new contraceptive methods since the advent of the birth control pill in the ’50s and ’60s.
Gates makes telling points in her speech:
- Controlled studies beginning in the 1960s in the Matlob district of Bangladesh have shown that villages that had regular access to contraception had healthier, longer-lived, and better educated children, and the villages were more resource-rich (arable land, livestock, and savings).
- Anti-contraception groups (such as the Catholic Church) attempt to attach the issues of abortion and draconian population control onto efforts at making contraception available to women in third-world countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and China. Gates states that those efforts highlight side issues that detract from the important ones. (Gates has also stated that she does not approve of abortion.)
- The “miracle” of Asian economic development in the 1980s was greatly fueled by the cultural shift in most of the affected countries to have smaller families.
- The most effective method to bring about the best conditions for children is to work on contraception as voluntary population control from the bottom up (at the family level) rather than mandatory efforts from the top down (government dictates and legislation).
Gates makes additional points here:
[She] believes that by focusing on the lives of women and children, and by making it clear that the agenda is neither coercive population control nor abortion, the controversy over international family-planning programs can be defused. Right now, she points out, 100,000 women annually die in childbirth after unintended pregnancies. Six hundred thousand babies born to women who didn’t want to be pregnant die in the first month of life.
Part of what Gates hopes to do is to re-create the former broad-based consensus behind global family planning, but in a way that’s focused on women’s needs rather than on demographics. “This is about empowering women to be educated and to make a choice that they want to make,” she says. “And if you look at what happens demographically because of that choice, you then get some of these outcomes that people were hoping to get worldwide.”
It was so nice to hear some good news about someone who has the power and resources to make things happen.
And that is one of those “every good things”.
And also, lest anyone get the idea that wingnuts might consider the notion that voluntarily controlling the size of one’s family might be a good idea…think again:
There’s a lollipop for anyone who can find a promotion of abortion or an attack upon Catholics in her speech.
(A bear hug and a warm soft kiss to The Spouse for bringing this one to my attention.)