Melinda Gates Fights To Put Birth Control On The Global Agenda -- And Save Children's Lives
Matthew Herper Forbes Staff
World Population Day: Changing The World Is Still A Family Affair
John Converse Townsend Contributor
On Wednesday evening in London, philanthropist and Power Woman Melinda Gates pledged her support for providing access to contraception for 120 million women who want, but cannot find, reliable access to contraceptives in the developing world.
And with her considerable resources (the Gates Foundation has funded more than $15 billion in global health grants since 1994), her support comes in the form of a hefty check.
The Gates Foundation will contribute $560 million to a planned $4.3 billion effort led by the British government and officials from African nations to fight high rates of unplanned pregnancy which result in extremely high mortality rates for both mothers and children along with a host of other social and health crises.
Gates had said she hoped to raise $4 billion, a goal she has more than met. Wednesday’s announcement increases the Gates Foundation’s commitment to family planning to $140 million a year over the next eight years, for a total of just over $1.1 billion.
According to Reuters, supporters of the campaign estimate 80 million unintended pregnancies will be avoided as a result of this initiative. The Prime Ministers of both Ethiopia and Rwanda have agreed that access to birth control methods will decrease poverty in their nations—with both are projected to double their populations by 2050.
Gates, a longtime advocate for women’s health issues has been vocal in her support of contraceptive resources for women despite her Catholic beliefs; in an interview that aired on CNN on Sunday, she said it had become her lifetime’s work. Her Gates foundation has long refused to fund programs that support abortion. “I had to wrestle with which pieces of religion do I use and believe in my life, what would I counsel my daughters to do,” she explained to Newsweek of her decision to support other contraceptive methods. Additionally she feels that “we’re not serving the other piece of the Catholic mission, which is social justice” by barring women from birth control alternatives.
“In my country where it’s considered highly controversial, more controversial with the bishops than it is in Europe, 82% of Catholics believe contraception is morally acceptable,” she said at Wednesday’s London Family Planning Summit, an symposium co-hosted by the Department for International Development. “So: let the women in Africa decide. The choice is up to them.” Religious groups have described her mission as an attack on Catholic sexual morality and, worse, an “elitist effort at population control.”
Gates met these criticisms in her CNN interview. “We’re not going to agree about everything,” she said, “but that’s OK.”
What’s also okay: that on this hot-button issue, money—specifically Gates’ money– is trumping both religion and politics to help women in need. Where are the checkbooks of the religious right? The conservative politicians in the world’s poorest countries? ”We made birth control and contraceptives way too political,” she says. “I think if people understood that 200 million women want this around the world they would start to say, ‘OK that makes sense.’”
Friday, July 13, 2012
Melinda Gates' $4.3 Billion Prayer For Contraception Crosses Politics And Religion