Essays Family Planning

The Catholic Church has never opposed family planning, but she teaches through her Magisterium, or teaching authority, that man may not, of his own volition, separate the two meanings of the conjugal act, the unitive and the procreative, because these meanings are willed by God himself.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) as a function of God’s will is also a function of the natural law. For years, we have been waging war on our fertility in the practice of artificial birth control to the point that many countries, especially in the West, are demographically below replacement levels. On the other hand, while vast numbers of women are ignorant of the significance of those changing mucus sensations, modern methods of NFP, if the intention is to avoid/postpone pregnancy, are scientifically secure. Natural Family Planning also has several advantages which benefit the marriage. Concluding, the article proposes (read please) that all Catholic physicians begin to conduct “NFP- Only” practices.


Following my becoming aware of the Billings Ovulation Method™ in November of 1973, I went through a conversion experience because I saw its value. Since that time, as an obstetrician/gynecologist, I supported, promoted, and taught the method both in, and outside of, my practice. At the same time, I saw no need to become certified because of my in-depth understanding of reproductive physiology. Fast forward 40 years. In July 2013, an opportunity to take formal certification training in the Method presented itself. I did so and was very much impressed with the excellent presentation(s) of the two women trainers, Kim Cole, and Erika Watkins. Conclusion: I only wish I had taken this training 30 years ago!

The doctors John and Lyn Billings (R.I.P.) are two of my heroes. A photograph of both of them graces my bedroom wall. My support and promotion of the Billings Ovulation MethodTM  stems from its essential simplicity. The Method is based on the sensations a woman feels at the vulva and contains only four rules–three pre-ovulatory and one post-ovulatory.  While most women have taught themselves to ignore those changing mucus sensations, once the cause and effect of their existence is suggested to a woman, she can no longer ignore the physiologic symptoms of her fertility. I believe that Dr. John Billings, et al, will go down in the annals of medical research as some of the very greatest.

Natural Law

“Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven.” Thus reads the fourth clause of the Our Father. The problem is that his will is not being done on Earth. While this may sound somewhat rudimentary, it is the truth. But how do we know the will of God? St. Thomas Aquinas, following the lead of St. Augustine, defined three types of law that define the will of God: Eternal Law, Divine Law, and Natural Law.  There is another kind of Law: Human Law, which is valid only when just. This paper will focus on the Natural Law and its implications for mankind. But what is Natural Law? Natural Law is a rule of reason, promulgated by God in man’s nature, whereby man can discern how he/she should act so that good is to be done, and evil is to be avoided. In its simplest form, Natural Law commands us: “to do good and avoid evil, 1 and St. Augustine maintained that this law is written on the heart of every person.

If the first of God’s gifts to us is the gift of life itself, then one may argue that our second most precious gift is the gift of our fertility. God’s first command to Adam and Eve after the fall was to “be fruitful and multiply.”

In a previous article, 2 we maintained that while pregnancy is not a disease, more fundamentally, neither is our fertility, which is a healthy physiologic component of the sexually mature person.  Given the present milieu, it seems that we are waging war on our fertility in the practice of contraception, i.e., artificial birth control. While this may sound countercultural, this war is attested to by the current armamentarium of barriers, chemicals, abortifacients, and even the knife. The medical profession is undeniably active in promoting this war. Under these circumstances, the furnishing of these modalities which treat a normal physiologic function of the sexually mature human being as a disease, must be a violation of the Natural Law and, therefore, evil and opposed to the will of God. Furthermore, one of the results of this war is that many countries, especially in the West, are demographically below replacement levels. While our non-Catholic brethren in the medical profession do not necessarily see this evil for what it is, Catholic physicians should have no problem seeing the logic of this position.

What has the “sexual revolution,” which began over 50 years ago, wrought with the availability of the birth control pill? It encouraged infidelity, increasing divorce rates, increased out-of-wedlock pregnancies, pornography, blatant homosexuality, promiscuity of all sorts, the spread of sexually transmitted disease, and massive abortion and contraceptive industries. 3

Perhaps, the greatest evil of the contraceptive culture in which we live is that it allows men to avoid their responsibilities, and also enables men to use women as objects for the man’s own sexual pleasure. This denies women the dignity and respect that they are entitled to as our wives and the mothers of our children, not to mention the denial of their normal cyclic fertility. For his own reasons, our heavenly Father placed in the hands of women the key to the control of human fertility. Therefore, today, to refer to the HHS mandate as an issue in “women’s health care” is the height of duplicity. It is clear that contraception acts as the gateway to the culture of death. I have little confidence in a legislative, political, or judicial solutions to the abortion controversy. I believe abortion will stop. But it will not stop until all people take on their own shoulders the responsibility for the control of their own fertility in the practice of some modern method of NFP.

Natural Family Planning

The Catholic Church has never opposed family planning, but she teaches through her Magisterium, or teaching authority, that man may not, of his own volition, separate the two meanings of the conjugal act, the unitive and the procreative, because these meanings are willed by God himself (Humanae Vitae §12). Over the years of his pontificate, and even before, Blessed John Paul II, the Great, spoke and wrote extensively on the subject of human sexuality. Two areas in which he spoke on the subject are in sections 118 to 131 in his Theology of the Body4 and in a work entitled “The Foundation of the Church’s Doctrine Concerning the Principles of Conjugal Life,” 5 published in 1966, in which Karol Cardinal Wojtyla was the primary director of research.

The title of Part 1 of “The Foundation of the Church’s Doctrine” reads: “The Natural Law as Foundation for the Condemnation of Contraception by the Magisterium of the Church, i.e., on natural morality. This statement revolves around the following three questions: (1) “Does the Church have the right to make authoritative pronouncements on matters of morality and natural law?”; (2) “Is her teaching on this subject infallible or not?”; and, (3) “Can this teaching change?” Those in favor of allowing contraception answered the first two questions in the negative, and the third question in the affirmative. On the other hand, those who upheld the constant teaching of the Catholic Church answered the first two questions in the affirmative, and the third question in the negative; they “emphasize(d) that the immutability of human nature provides an objective foundation to natural law” as upheld by the ordinary Magisterium. Furthermore, beginning in the 19th century, under the pontificate of Pope Pius IX in 1854, no less than 29 documents attested to the Church’s position on this matter based on natural law. 6

Following on these documents, three conclusions may be drawn: (1) The Church, in her official teaching, condemns contraception as being morally evil and impermissible; (2) the teaching on this subject is consistent from Popes Pius XI to Paul VI (even before Humanae Vitae), the latter having neither revoked nor questioned it; and, (3) the condemnation of contraception from the point of view of morality is considered by the Church as a norm of natural law and, therefore, an objective norm flowing from nature, immutable and obligatory for all, and not only for Catholics. In the long run, when everything is said and done in the contraception, sterilization, abortion controversy, the Catholic Church will come out smelling like a rose.

A true method of family planning must be a method that can be used to either achieve or avoid pregnancy. In a very real sense, methods of Natural Family Planning, and fertility awareness, are the only true methods of family planning for the simple reason that they are the only methods that can be employed either to achieve or avoid pregnancy. All other methods can only be used to prevent pregnancy. An excellent article 7—which one can heartily recommend, by Pilar Vigil, M.D., Ph.D., (and others) and which describes the values of fertility awareness and NFP— appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Linacre Quarterly. Fr. Matthew Habiger, Associate Director of NFP Outreach stated: “It is the natural right of all women of childbearing age to be aware of those symptoms of fertility awareness.” Additionally, Dr. Hanna Klaus also has perfected a curriculum, entitled “Teen STAR,” which teaches youngsters to hold their sexuality and fertility in profound respect.

How does the Church justify its condemnation of contraception? First of all, this condemnation is based on the human person: the individual’s dignity, rights, and values. Secondly, the person’s power of co-creating (transmitting life) is a gift of God, but human intellect has discovered biologic laws which command the person to follow the dictates of Humanae Vitae, which is grounded in truth. Next, the natural law demands that a person should never be used as an object for one’s own ends, egged on, so to speak, by concupiscence. Rather, the virtues of justice and love should govern relations between persons and that the marital embrace be guided by the virtue of chastity. In fact, John Paul II asserted in his Theology of the Body that the practice of Natural Family Planning in marriage is the practice of conjugal chastity, and defined periodic continence as a virtue.

Furthermore, the “Foundation for the Condemnation of Contraception” asserts that both man and woman enjoy an equality in marriage, i.e., in their nature, in their right of contracting marriage, but also marked by the differences in the sexes. While the normal sexually mature male is continuously fertile from puberty, the woman is only periodically fertile through relatively short but relatively frequent periods of time. In this regard, contraception makes no contribution to the woman’s personal rights, and primarily benefits the male, as stated above, relieving him of his responsibility.

In both the “Foundation for the Condemnation of Contraception” and Blessed John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, he makes the assertion that the sexual instinct in man is “without a doubt, one of the strongest instincts” and taught that periodic abstinence, i.e., continence, is a virtue. In addition, he pointed out that the willingness to abstain from the marital act on occasion can be a greater act of love than the act itself.

So, Why NFP?

First and primarily, NFP is a function of the natural law and the will of God. This is so because God created man and woman in his image and likeness with an intellect, a will, and a memory. God, therefore, also created human sexuality, and with it, fertility; and ordained that this fertility provide a unitive and procreative meaning to the marital embrace. We are all called to lead chaste lives. Blessed John Paul II defined NFP as the practice of chastity within marriage. The practice of NFP requires precisely the same kind of commitment as marriage itself. The practice of NFP obligates the couple to discuss with one another, among other things, the availability, or not, of the marital embrace, thus increasing loving communication between the spouses.

While the divorce rate in this country, for Catholics and Protestants alike, is estimated at 50 percent, the divorce rate among couples using NFP is between 2 and 5 percent. 8 In other words, if you want your marriage to survive, you cannot contracept.

When feminists finally figure out how badly they have been deceived by the contraception industry, there is going to be an immense amount of anger, especially when they realize who their true friend has been.

When a wife sees that her husband is willing to deny himself for their mutual benefit, and the benefit of the family, this increases her love for him. It, on occasion, can be a greater act of love to abstain than to engage in the act itself.

While this may seem overly simplistic, there are only two essentials in the practice of NFP if the intention is to delay/avoid pregnancy: (1) that the woman temporarily defines the limits of the fertile phase of her reproductive cycle, and (2) that the couple willingly abstains from all genital contact during that time period.

Blessed John Paul II the Great also mentioned in the Theology of the Body that NFP is not without its difficulties. At the same time, it promises the couple both a courtship and a honeymoon each month.

And last but not least, the practice of NFP experientially teaches four virtues: Patience, Generosity, Self-Control, and Sexual Maturity.


Having said all of the above, there remains the proposal or plea, nay, the obligation, that all Catholic physicians commit to conduct “NFP Only” practices in obedience to the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. Nothing short of this will act to defeat the culture of death in which we. live.


The Linacre Quarterly previously published significant portions of this essay as an editorial entitled “Why NFP” in Vol. 80, number 3, August 2013. The Linacre Quarterly is published by Maney Publishing on behalf of the copyright holders, the Catholic Medical Association. The Catholic Medical Association retains all rights, title, and interest in the copyright throughout the world for the above editorial for the full legal term of copyright. The Linacre Quarterly can be found online at:  and
Used by the author with permission.

Filed Under: Articles, MagazineTagged With: abstinence, Billings Ovulation Method, birth control pill, Church Magisterium, Divine Law, Drs. John and Lyn Billings, health care, Humanae Vitae, Natural Family Planning (NFP), natural law, Patrick McCrystal, Pope John Paul II, Pope Paul VI, sexual revolution, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Theology of the Body, unitive and procreative dimensions of human sexuality

Family planning services are defined as "educational, comprehensive medical or social activities which enable individuals, including minors, to determine freely the number and spacing of their children and to select the means by which this may be achieved".[1] Family planning may involve consideration of the number of children a woman wishes to have, including the choice to have no children, as well as the age at which she wishes to have them. These matters are influenced by external factors such as marital situation, career considerations, financial position, any disabilities that may affect their ability to have children and raise them, besides many other considerations. If sexually active, family planning may involve the use of contraception[2][3] and other techniques to control the timing of reproduction. Other techniques commonly used include sexuality education,[3][1] prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections,[3]pre-conception counseling[3] and management, and infertility management.[2] Family planning as defined by the United Nations and the World Health Organization encompasses services leading up to conception and does not promote abortion as a family planning method,[4] although levels of contraceptive use reduces the need for abortion.[5]

Family planning is sometimes used as a synonym or euphemism for access to and the use of contraception. However, it often involves methods and practices in addition to contraception. Additionally, there are many who might wish to use contraception but are not, necessarily, planning a family (e.g., unmarried adolescents, young married couples delaying childbearing while building a career); family planning has become a catch-all phrase for much of the work undertaken in this realm. Contemporary notions of family planning, however, tend to place a woman and her childbearing decisions at the center of the discussion, as notions of women's empowerment and reproductive autonomy have gained traction in many parts of the world. It is most usually applied to a female-male couple who wish to limit the number of children they have and/or to control the timing of pregnancy (also known as spacing children).


Raising a child requires significant amounts of resources: time,[6] social, financial,[7] and environmental. Planning can help assure that resources are available. The purpose of family planning is to make sure that any couple, man, or woman who has a child has the resources that are needed in order to complete this goal.[8][dubious– discuss] With these resources a couple, man or women can explore the options of natural birth, surrogacy, artificial insemination, or adoption. In the other case, if the person does not wish to have a child at the specific time, they can investigate the resources that are needed to prevent pregnancy, such as birth control, contraceptives, or physical protection and prevention.


When women can pursue additional education and paid employment, families can invest more in each child. Children with fewer siblings tend to stay in school longer than those with many siblings. Leaving school in order to have children has long-term implications for the future of these girls, as well as the human capital of their families and communities. Family planning slows unsustainable population growth which drains resources from the environment, and national and regional development efforts.[9]


See also: Maternal health, Maternal death, and teenage pregnancy

The WHO states about maternal health that:

"Maternal health refers to the health of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. While motherhood is often a positive and fulfilling experience, for too many women it is associated with suffering, ill-health and even death."

About 99% of maternal deaths occur in less developed countries; less than one half occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost a third in South Asia.[10]

Both early and late motherhood have increased risks. Young teenagers face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy.[10] Waiting until the mother is at least 18 years old before trying to have children improves maternal and child health.[11]

Also, if additional children are desired after a child is born, it is healthier for the mother and the child to wait at least 2 years after the previous birth before attempting to conceive (but not more than 5 years).[11] After a miscarriage or abortion, it is healthier to wait at least 6 months.[11]

Joselyne When planning a family, women should be aware that reproductive risks increase with the age of the woman. Like older men, older women have a higher chance of having a child with autism or Down syndrome, the chances of having multiple births increases, which cause further late-pregnancy risks, they have an increased chance of developing gestational diabetes, the need for a Caesarian section is greater, older women's bodies are not as well-suited for delivering a baby. The risk of prolonged labor is higher. Older mothers have a higher risk of a long labor, putting the baby in distress.

Modern methods[edit]

Modern methods of family planning include birth control, assisted reproductive technology and family planning programs.

In regard to the use of modern methods of contraception, The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that, “Contraceptives prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the number of abortions, and lower the incidence of death and disability related to complications of pregnancy and childbirth.” [12] UNFPA states that, “If all women with an unmet need for contraceptives were able to use modern methods, an additional 24 million abortions (14 million of which would be unsafe), 6 million miscarriages, 70,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 infant deaths would be prevented.” [12]

In cases where couples may not want to have children just yet, family planning programs help a lot. Federal family planning programs reduced childbearing among poor women by as much as 29 percent, according to a University of Michigan study.[13]

Adoption is another option used to build a family. There are seven steps that one must make towards adoption. You must decide to pursue an adoption, apply to adopt, complete an adoption home study, get approved to adopt, be matched with a child, receive an adoptive placement, and then legalize the adoption.[14]


Main article: Birth control

A number of contraceptive methods are available to prevent unwanted pregnancy. There are natural methods and various chemical based methods. range of contraceptive methods, each with particular advantages and disadvantages. Behavioral methods to avoid pregnancy that involve vaginal intercourse include the withdrawal and calendar-based methods, which have little up front cost and are readily available.. Long-acting reversible contraceptive methods, such as intrauterine device (IUD) and implant are highly effective and convenient, requiring little user action, but do come with risks. When cost of failure is included, IUDs and vasectomy are much less costly than other methods. In addition to providing birth control, male and/or female condoms protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Condoms may be used alone, or in addition to other methods, as backup or to prevent STD. Surgical methods (tubal ligation, vasectomy) provide long-term contraception for those who have completed their families.[15]

Assisted reproductive technology[edit]

Main article: Assisted reproductive technology

When, for any reason, a woman is unable to conceive by natural means, she may seek assisted conception. For example, some families or women seek assistance through surrogacy, in which a woman agrees to become pregnant and deliver a child for another couple or person.

There are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate uses her own eggs and carries the child for her intended parents. This procedure is done in a doctor's office through IUI. This type of surrogacy obviously includes a genetic connection between the surrogate and the child. Legally, the surrogate will have to disclaim any interest in the child to complete the transfer to the intended parents. A gestational surrogacy occurs when the intended mother's or a donor egg is fertilized outside the body and then the embryos are transferred into the uterus. The woman who carries the child is often referred to as a gestational carrier. The legal steps to confirm parentage with the intended parents are generally easier than in a traditional because there is no genetic connection between child and carrier.[16]

Sperm donation is another form of assisted conception. It involves donated sperm being used to fertilise a woman's ova by artificial insemination (either by intracervical insemination or intrauterine insemination) and less commonly by invitro fertilization (IVF), but insemination may also be achieved by a donor having sexual intercourse with a woman for the purpose of achieving conception. This method is known as natural insemination (NI).

Mapping of a woman's ovarian reserve, follicular dynamics and associated biomarkers can give an individual prognosis about future chances of pregnancy, facilitating an informed choice of when to have children.[17]


See also: Family economics and Cost of raising a child

Family planning is among the most cost-effective of all health interventions.[18] "The cost savings stem from a reduction in unintended pregnancy, as well as a reduction in transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV".[18]

Childbirth and prenatal health care cost averaged $7,090 for normal delivery in the United States in 1996.[19]U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that for a child born in 2007, a U.S. family will spend an average of $11,000 to $23,000 per year for the first 17 years of child's life.[6] (Total inflation-adjusted estimated expenditure: $196,000 to $393,000, depending on household income.)[6] Breaks down cost by age, type of expense, region of country. Adjustments for number of children (one child — spend 24% more, 3 or more spend less on each child.)

Investing in family planning has clear economic benefits and can also help countries to achieve their “demographic dividend,” which means that countries productivity is able to increase when there are more people in the workforce and less dependents.[12] UNFPA says that, “For every dollar invested in contraception, the cost of pregnancy-related care is reduced by $1.47.”[12]

UNFPA states that,

The lifetime opportunity cost related to adolescent pregnancy – a measure of the annual income a young mother misses out on over her lifetime – ranges from 1 per cent of annual gross domestic product in a large country such as China to 30 per cent of annual GDP in a small economy such as Uganda. If adolescent girls in Brazil and India were able to wait until their early twenties to have children, the increased economic productivity would equal more than $3.5 billion and $7.7 billion, respectively.[12]

In the Copenhagen Consensus produced by nobel laureates in collaboration with the UN, universal access to contraception ranks as the third highest policy initiative in social, economic, and environmental benefits for every dollar spent.[20] Providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and eliminating the unmet need for contraception will result in 640,000 fewer newborn deaths, 150,000 fewer maternal deaths and 600,000 fewer children who lose their mother. At the same time, societies will experience fewer dependents and more women in the workforce, driving faster economic growth. The costs of universal access to contraceptives will be about $3.6 billion/year, but the benefits will be more than $400 billion annually and cut maternal deaths by 150,000.

Fertility Awareness[edit]

Main article: Fertility awareness

Fertility awareness refers to a set of practices used to determine the fertile and infertile phases of a woman's menstrual cycle. Fertility awareness methods may be used to avoid pregnancy, to achieve pregnancy, or as a way to monitor gynecological health. Methods of identifying infertile days have been known since antiquity, but scientific knowledge gained during the past century has increased the number and variety of methods. Various methods can be used and the Symptothermal method has achieved a success rates over 99% if used properly.[21]

These methods are used for various reasons: There are no drug-related side effects,[22] it is free to use and only has a small upfront cost, it works both ways, or for religious reasons (the Catholic Church promotes this as the only acceptable form of family planning calling it Natural Family Planning). Its disadvantages are that either abstinence or backup method is required on fertile days, typical use is often less effective than other methods,[23] and it does not protect against sexually transmitted disease.[24]

Media campaign[edit]

Recent research based on nationally representative surveys supports a strong association between family planning mass media campaigns and contraceptive use, even after social and demographic variables are controlled for. The 1989 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey found half of the women who recalled hearing or seeing family planning messages in radio, print, and television consequently used contraception, compared with 14% who did not recall family planning messages in the media, even after age, residence and socioeconomic status were taken into account.[25]

The Health Education Division of the Ministry of Health conducted the Tanzanian Family Planning Communication Project from January 1991 through December 1994, a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).[26] The program intended to educate both men and men of reproductive age about modern contraception methods. The major media channels and products included radio spots, radio series drama, Green Star logo promotional activities (identifies sites where family planning services are available), posters, leaflets, newspapers, and audio cassettes. In conjunction with other non-project interventions sponsored by other Tanzanian and international agencies from 1992–1994, contraception use among women ages 15–49 increased from 5.9% to 11.3%. The total fertility rate dropped from 6.3 lifetime births per individual in 1991–1992 to 5.8 in 1994.  


Direct government support[edit]

Direct government support for family planning includes providing family planning education and supplies through government-run facilities such as hospitals, clinics, health posts and health centers and through government fieldworkers.[27]

In 2013, 160 out of 197 governments provided direct support for family planning. Twenty countries only provided indirect support through private sector or NGOs. Seventeen governments did not support family planning. Direct government support has continued to increase in developing countries from 82% in 1996 to 93% in 2013, but is declining in developed countries from 58% in 1976 to 45% in 2013. Ninety-seven percent of Latin America and the Caribbean, 96% of Africa, and 94% of Oceania governments provided direct support for family planning. In Europe, only 45% of governments directly support family planning. Out of 172 countries with available data in 2012, 152 countries had implemented realistic measures to increase women’s access to family planning methods from 2009–2014. This included 95% of developing nations and 65% of developed nations.[27]

Private sector[edit]

The private sector includes nongovernmental and faith-based organizations who typically provide free or subsidized services to for-profit medical providers, pharmacies and drug shops. The private sector accounts for approximately two-fifths of contraceptive suppliers worldwide. Private organizations are able to provide sustainable markets for contraceptive services through social marketing, social franchising, and pharmacies.[28]

Social marketing employs marketing techniques to achieve behavioral change while making contraceptives available. By utilizing private providers, social marketing reduces geographic and socioeconomic disparities and reaches men and boys.[28]

Social franchising designs a brand for contraceptives in order to expand the market for contraceptives.[28]

Drug shops and pharmacies provide health care in rural areas and urban slums where there are few public clinics. They account for most of the private sector provided contraception in sub-Saharan Africa, especially for condoms, pills, injectables and emergency contraception. Pharmacy supply and low-cost emergency contraception in South Africa and many low-income countries increases access to contraception.[28]

Workplace policies and programs help expand access to family planning information. The Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia, which works with more than 150 enterprises to improve health services, analyzed health outcomes in one factory over 10 years and found reductions in unintended pregnancies and STIs as well as sick leave. Contraception use rose from 11% to 90% between 1997 and 2000. In 2016, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers Export Association partnered with family planning organizations to provide training and free contraceptives to factory clinics, creating the potential to reach thousands of factory employees.[28]

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)[edit]

NGOs may meet the needs of local poor by encouraging self-help and participation, understanding social and cultural subtleties, and working around red tape when governments do not adequately meet the needs of their constituents. A successful NGO can uphold family planning services even when a national program is threatened by political forces. NGOs can contribute to informing government policy, developing programs, or carry out programs that the government will not or can not implement.[29]

International oversight[edit]

See also: International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International, and United States Agency for International Development

Family planning programs are now considered a key part of a comprehensive development strategy. The United Nations Millennium Development Goals reflects this international consensus. The 2012 London Summit on Family Planning, hosted by the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, affirmed political commitments and increased funds for the project, strengthening the role of family planning in global development.[30] Family Planning 2020 is the result of the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning where more than 20 governments made commitments to address the policy, financing, delivery, and socio-cultural barriers to women accessing contraception formation and services. FP2020 is a global movement that supports the rights of women to decide for themselves whether, when and how many children they want to have.[31] The commitments of the program are specific to each country, as compared to the generalized main goals of the 1995 conference program of action. FP2020 is hosted by the United Nations Foundation and operates in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health.

The world's largest international source of funding for population and reproductive health programs is the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development set the main goals of its Program of Action as:

  • Universal access to reproductive health services by 2015
  • Universal primary education and ending the gender gap in education by 2015
  • Reducing maternal mortality by 75% by 2015
  • Reducing infant mortality
  • Increasing life expectancy at birth
  • Reducing HIV infection rates in persons aged 15–24 years by 25% in the most-affected countries by 2005, and by 25% globally by 2010

The World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank estimate that $3 per person per year would provide basic family planning, maternal and neonatal health care to women in developing countries. This would include contraception, prenatal, delivery, and post-natal care in addition to postpartum family planning and the promotion of condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections.[32]

Coercive interference with family planning[edit]

Forced sterilization[edit]

Main article: Forced sterilization

Compulsory or forced sterilization programs or government policy attempt to force people to undergo surgical sterilization without their freely given consent. People from marginalized communities are at most risk of forced sterilization.[33] Forced sterilization has occurred in recent years in Eastern Europe (against Roma women),[33][34] and in Peru (during the 1990s against indigenous women).[35]China's one-child policy was intended to limit the rise in population numbers, but in some situations involved forced sterilisation.

Sexual violence[edit]

Main article: Pregnancy from rape

Rape can result in a pregnancy. Rape can occur in a variety of situations, including war rape, forced prostitution and marital rape

In Rwanda, the National Population Office has estimated that between 2,000 and 5,000 children were born as a result of sexual violence perpetrated during the genocide, but victims' groups gave a higher estimated number of over 10,000 children.[36]

Family planning, human rights, and development[edit]

Access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right and is central to gender equality, women’s empowerment and poverty reduction. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that, “Some 225 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack access to information or services to lack of support from their partners or communities.” [37] UNFPA says that, “Most of these women with an unmet need for contraceptives live in 69 of the poorest countries on earth.” [37]

Over the past 50 years, right-based family planning has enabled the cycle of poverty to be broken resulting in millions of women and children’s lives being saved.[37]

UNFPA says that,

Global consensus that family planning is a human right was secured at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, in Principle 8 of the Programme of Action: All couples and individuals have the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information, education and means to do so.[37]

As part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) universal access to family planning is one of the key factors contributing to development and reducing poverty. Family planning creates benefits in areas such as, gender quality and women's health, access to sexual education and higher education, and improvements in maternal and child health.[37]

UNFPA and the Guttmacher Institute say that,

Serving all women in developing countries that currently have an unmet need for modern contraceptives would prevent an additional 54 million unintended pregnancies, including 21 million unplanned births, 26 million abortions and seven million miscarriages; this would also prevent 79,000 maternal deaths and 1.1 million infant deaths.[38]

Quality-quantity trade-off[edit]

Having children produces a quality-quantity trade-off: parents need to decide how many children to have and how much to invest in the future of each child.[39] The increasing marginal cost of quality (child outcome) with respect to quantity (number of children) creates a trade-off between quantity and quality.[40] The quantity-quality trade-off means that policies that raise benefits of investing in child quality will generate higher levels of human capital, and policies that lower the costs of having children may have unintended adverse consequences on long-run economic growth. When deciding how many children, parents are influenced by their income level, perceived return to human capital investment, and cultural norms related to gender equality. Controlling birth rates allows families to raise the future earnings power of the next generation.

Many empirical studies have tested the quantity-quality trade-off and either observed a negative correlation between family size and child quality or did not find a correlation.[40] Most studies treat family size as an exogenous variable because parents choose childbearing and child outcome and therefore cannot establish causality. They are both influenced by typically non-observable parental preferences and household characteristics, but some studies observe proxy variables such as investment in education.

Developing countries[edit]

High fertility countries have 18% of the world's population but contribute 38% of the population growth.[41] In order to become rich, resources must be re-appropriated to increase income per person rather than supporting larger populations. As populations increase, governments must accommodate increasing investments in health and human capital and institutional reforms to address demographic divides. Reducing the cost of human capital can be implemented by subsidizing education, which raises the earning power of women and the opportunity cost of having children, consequently lowering fertility.[39] Access to contraceptives may also yield lower fertility rates: having more children than expected constrains the individual from attaining their desired level of investment in child quantity and quality.[39] In high fertility contexts, reduced fertility may contribute to economic development by improving child outcomes, reducing maternal mortality and increasing female human capital.

Dang and Rogers (2015) show that in Vietnam, family planning services increased investment in education by lowering the relative cost of child quality and encouraging families to invest in quality.[42] By observing the distance to the nearest family planning center and the general education expenditure on each child, Dang and Rogers provide evidence that parents in Vietnam are making a child quality-quantity trade-off.

Developed countries[edit]

Currently developed countries have experienced rising economic growth and falling fertility. As a result of the demographic transition that takes place when countries become rich, developed countries have an increasing proportion of retired people which raises the burden on the workforce population to support pensions and social programs. Encouraging higher fertility as a solution may risk reversing the benefits for increased child investment and female labor force participation have had on economic growth. Increasing high skill migration may be an effective way to increase the return to education leading to lower fertility and a greater supply of high skilled individuals.[39]

Demand for family planning[edit]

214 million women of reproductive age in developing countries who not want to be pregnant are not using a modern contraceptive method.[43] This could be a result of a limited choice of methods, limited access to contraception, fear of side-effects, cultural or religious opposition, poor quality of available services, user or provider bias, or gender-based barriers. In Africa, 24.2% of women of reproductive age do not have access to modern contraction. In Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, the unmet need is 10–11%. Meeting the unmet need for contraception could prevent 104,000 maternal deaths per year, a 29% reduction of women dying from postpartum hemorrhage or unsafe abortions.[44]

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Population Division, 64% of the world uses contraceptives, 12% of the world population's need for contraceptives is unmet. In the least developed countries, 22% of the population do not have access to contraceptives, and 40% use contraceptives.[45] The unmet need for modern contraceptives is very high in sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia, and western Asia. Africa has the lowest rate of contraceptive use (33%) and highest rate of unmet need (22%). Northern America has the highest rate of contraceptive use (73%) and the lowest unmet need (7%). Latin America and the Caribbean follows closely behind with 73% contraceptive use and 11% unmet need. Europe and Asia are on par: Europe has a 69% contraceptive use rate and 10% unmet need, Asia has a 68% contraceptive use and 10% unmet need. Although unmet need is lower in Asia because of the large population in this region, the number of women with unmet need is 443 million, compared to 74 million in Europe Oceania has a 59% contraceptive use rate and 15% unmet need. When comparing the regions within these continents, Eastern Asia ranks the highest rate of contraceptive use (82%) and lowest unmet need (5%). Western Africa ranks the lowest rate of contraceptive use (17%). Middle Africa ranks the highest unmet need (26%). Unmet need is higher among poorer women; in Bolivia and Ethiopa unmet need is tripled and doubled among poor populations.[46] However, in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia the rates of unmet need are different by 1–2 percentage points.[47] This suggests that as wealthier women begin to want smaller families, they will increasingly seek out family planning methods.[48]

Substantial unmet need has provoked family planning programs by governments and donors, but the impact of family planning programs on fertility and contraceptive use remains somewhat unsettled. "Demand theory" argues that in traditional agricultural societies, fertility rates are driven by the desire to offset high mortality, thus as society modernizes, the costs of raising children increases, reducing their economic value, and resulting in a decline in desired number of children. Under this theory, family planning programs will have a marginal impact. Bongaarts (2014) shows that using a country case study approach, both stronger and weaker family programs reduce the unmet need for contraceptives and increases use by making modern contraceptives more widely available and removing obstacles to use.[30] Also, the demand that is satisfied and the proportion of women using modern methods increased. The programs may have an additional effect of diffusing the ideas related to family planning and thus raising the demand for contraception. As a result, a small decrease in unmet need may be offset by a rise in demand. Nonetheless, even in countries where it is assumed that family programs will make a marginal impact, Bongaarts shows that family planning programs can potentially increase contraceptive use and increase/decrease demand depending on the preexisting attitudes of the community.

Regional variations[edit]


Main article: Birth control in Africa

Most of the countries with lowest rates of contraceptive use, highest maternal, infant, and child mortality rates, and highest fertility rates are in Africa.[49][50][51][52][53] Only about 30% of all women use birth control, although over half of all African women would like to use birth control if it was available to them.[54][55] The main problems that preventing access to and use of birth control are unavailability, poor health care services, spousal disapproval, religious concerns, and misinformation about the effects of birth control.[54] The most available type of birth control is condoms.[56] A rapidly growing population coupled with an increase in preventable diseases means countries in Sub-Saharan Africa face an increasingly younger population.


This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information.(June 2016)

Main article: Family planning policy

China's Family planning policy forced couples to have no more than one child. Beginning in 1979 and being officially phased out in 2015,[57] the policy was instated to control the rapid population growth that was occurring in the nation at that time. With the rapid change in population, China was facing many impacts, including poverty and homelessness. As a developing nation, the Chinese government was concerned that a continuation of the rapid population growth that had been occurring would hinder their development as a nation. The process of family planning varied throughout China, as people differed in their responsiveness to the one-child policy, based on location and socioeconomic status. For example, many families in the cities accepted the policy more readily based on the lack of space, money, and resources that often occurs in the cities. Another example can be found in the enforcement of this rule; people living in rural areas of China were, in some cases, permitted to have more than one child, but had to wait several years after the birth of the first one.[58] However, the people in rural areas of China were more hesitant in accepting this policy. China's population policy has been credited with a very significant slowing of China's population growth which had been higher before the policy was implemented. However, the policy has come under criticism that it has resulted in the abuse of women. Often implementation of the policy has involved forced abortions, forced sterilization, and infanticides. That families desired a male child had a part to play in the number of infanticides. The number of girls that die within their first year of birth is twice that of boys.[59] Another drawback of the policy is that China’s elderly population is now increasing rapidly.[60] However, while the punishment of "unplanned" pregnancy is a large fine, both forced abortion and forced sterilization can be charged with intentional assault, which is punished with up to ten years' imprisonment. Another issue that is raised in the one-child policy in China is the information in regards to naturally giving birth to twins or triplets. If this situation arises, the family is allowed to keep the children because of the natural causes of this impregnation.[citation needed]

Family planning in China had its benefits, and its drawbacks. For example, it helped reduce the population by about 300 million people in its first 20 years.[61] A drawback is that there are now millions of sibling-less people, and in China siblings are very important. Once the parent generation gets older, the children help take care of them, and the work is usually equally split among the siblings.[62] Another benefit of the implementation of the one-child law is that it reduced the fertility rate from about 2.75 children born per woman, to about 1.8 children born per woman in the 1979.[63]

Hong Kong[edit]

Main article: The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong

See also: Two-child policy

In Hong Kong, the Eugenics League was found in 1936, which became The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong in 1950.[64] The organisation provides family planning advice, sex education, birth control services to the general public of Hong Kong. In the 1970s, due to the rapidly rising population, it launched the "Two Is Enough" campaign, which reduced the general birth rate through educational means.[64]

The Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, Hong Kong's national family planning association,[65] founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation with its counterparts in seven other countries.[65]


Main article: Family planning in India

Family planning in India is based on efforts largely sponsored by the Indian government. In the 1965–2009 period, contraceptive usage has more than tripled (from 13% of married women in 1970 to 48% in 2009) and the fertility rate has more than halved (from 5.7 in 1966 to 2.6 in 2009), but the national fertility rate is still high enough to cause long-term population growth. India adds up to 1,000,000 people to its population every 15 days.[66][67][68][69][70]


Main article: Family planning in Iran

While Iran's population grew at a rate of more than 3% per year between 1956 and 1986, the growth rate began to decline in the late 1980s and early 1990s after the government initiated a major population control program. By 2007 the growth rate had declined to 0.7 percent per year, with a birth rate of 17 per 1,000 persons and a death rate of 6 per 1,000.[71] Reports by the UN show birth control policies in Iran to be effective with the country topping the list of greatest fertility decreases. UN's Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs says that between 1975 and 1980, the total fertility number was 6.5. The projected level for Iran's 2005 to 2010 birth rate is fewer than two.[72]

In late July 2012, Supreme LeaderAli Khamenei described Iran's contraceptive services as "wrong," and Iranian authorities are slashing birth-control programs in what one Western newspaper (USA Today) describes as a "major reversal" of its long standing policy. Whether program cuts and high-level appeals for bigger families will be successful is still unclear.[73]


Main article: Contraception in the Republic of Ireland

The sale of contraceptives was illegal in Ireland from 1935 until 1980, when it was legalized with strong restrictions, later loosened. It has been argued that the resulting demographic dividend played a role in the economic boom in Ireland that began in the 1990s and ended abruptly in 2008 (the Celtic tiger) was in part due to the legalisation of contraception in 1979 and subsequent decline in the fertility rate.[74] In Ireland the ratio of workers to dependents increased due to lower fertility — the reality of which has been questioned[75] — but was raised further by increased female labor market participation.[citation needed]


Main article: Family planning in Pakistan

In agreement with the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Pakistan pledged that by 2010 it would provide universal access to family planning. Additionally, Pakistan’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper has set specific national goals for increases in family planning and contraceptive use.[76] In 2011 just one in five Pakistani women ages 15 to 49 uses modern birth control.[77] Contraception is shunned under traditional social mores that are fiercely defended as fundamentalist Islam gains strength.[77]


See also: Demographics of Russia

According to a 2004 study, current pregnancies were termed "desired and timely" by 58% of respondents, while 23% described them as "desired, but untimely", and 19% said they were "undesired". As of 2004, the share of women of reproductive age using hormonal or intrauterine birth control methods was about 46% (29% intrauterine, 17% hormonal).[78] During the soviet era high quality contraceptives were difficult to obtain, and abortion became the most common way of preventing unwanted births. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union abortion rates have fallen considerably, but they are still higher than rates in many developed countries.


In the Philippines, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 guarantees universal access to methods on contraception, fertility control, sexual education, and maternal care. While there is general agreement about its provisions on maternal and child health, there is great debate on its mandate that the Philippine government and the private sector will fund and undertake widespread distribution of family planning devices such as condoms, birth control pills, and IUDs, as the government continues to disseminate information on their use through all health care centers.


In 1970, Thailand's government declared a population policy that would battle the country's rapid population growth rate. This policy set a 5-year goal to reduce Thailand's population growth rate from 3 percent to 2.5 percent through methods such as spreading family planning awareness to rural families, or integrating family planning activities into maternal and child healthcare education.[79] Public figures such as Mechai Viravaidya helped spread family planning awareness through public speakings and charitable activities.


Main article: Family planning in Singapore

Population control in Singapore spans two distinct phases: first to slow and reverse the boom in births that started after World War II; and then, from the 1980s onwards, to encourage parents to have more children because birth numbers had fallen below replacement levels.

United Kingdom[edit]

Contraception has been available for free under the National Health Service since 1974, and 74% of reproductive-age women use some form of contraception.[80] The levonorgestrel intrauterine system has been massively popular.[80] Sterilization is popular in older age groups, among those 45–49, 29% of men and 21% of women have been sterilized.[80] Female sterilization has been declining since 1996, when the intrauterine system was introduced.[80]Emergency contraception has been available since the 1970s, a product was specifically licensed for emergency contraception in 1984, and emergency contraceptives became available over the counter in 2001.[80] Since becoming available over the counter it has not reduced the use of other forms of contraception, as some moralists feared it might.[80] In any year only 5% of women of childbearing age use emergency hormonal contraception.[80]

Despite widespread availability of contraceptives, almost half of pregnancies were unintended in 2005.[80]Abortion was legalized in 1967.[80]

United States[edit]

Main article: Birth control in the United States

Despite the availability of highly effective contraceptives, about half of U.S. pregnancies are unintended.[23] Highly effective contraceptives, such as IUD, are underused in the United States.[55] Increasing use of highly effective contraceptives could help meet the goal set forward in Healthy People 2020 to decrease unintended pregnancy by 10%.[55] Cost to the user is one factor preventing many American women from using more effective contraceptives.[55] Making contraceptives available without a copay increases use of highly effective methods, reduces unintended pregnancies, and may be instrumental in achieving the Healthy People 2020 goal.[55]

In the United States, contraceptive use saves about $19 billion in direct medical costs each year.[23]Title X of the Public Health Service Act,[81] is a U.S. government program dedicated to providing family planning services for those in need. But funding for Title X as a percentage of total public funding to family planning client services has steadily declined from 44% of total expenditures in 1980 to 12% in 2006. Current funding for Title X is less than 40% of what is needed to meet the need for publicly funded family planning.[82] Title X would need $737 million annually to meet the need for family planning services.[83] Only 6.2 million women accessed publicly funded services from 10,700 clinics in 2015, despite an estimated 20 million women who could benefit.

Clinics funded by Title X served 3.8 million of these women with access to services.In 2015, publicly funded contraceptive services helped women prevent 1.9 million unintended pregnancies; 876,100 of these would have resulted in unplanned births and 628,000 abortions.[84] Without publicly funded contraceptive services, the rates of unintended pregnancies, unplanned births and abortions would have been 67% higher.[85] The rates for teens would have been 102% higher.[86] Title X funded programs saw 1.2 million fewer patients in 2015 compared to 2010 as funding decreased by $31 million.[87] In 2015, an estimated 2.4 million additional women received Medicaid-funded contraceptive services from private doctors.[88]

Medicaid has increased from 20% to 71% from 1980 to 2006. In 2006, Medicaid contributed $1.3 billion to public family planning.[89] The $1.9 billion spent on publicly funded family planning in 2008 saved an estimated $7 billion in short-term Medicaid costs.[55] Such services helped women prevent an estimated 1.94 million unintended pregnancies and 810,000 abortions.[55]

About 3 out of 10 women in the United States have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old.[90]

A 2017 National Bureau of Economic Research paper found that parents' access to family planning programs had a positive economic impact on their subsequent children: " Using the county-level introduction of U.S. family planning programs between 1964 and 1973, we find that children born after programs began had 2.8% higher household incomes. They were also 7% less likely to live in poverty and 12% less likely to live in households receiving public assistance. After accounting for selection, the direct effects of family planning programs on parents’ incomes account for roughly two thirds of these gains."[91]


Main article: Compulsory sterilization in Uzbekistan

In Uzbekistan the government has pushed for uteruses to be removed from women in order to forcibly sterilize them.[92][93]

Obstacles to family planning[edit]

There are many reasons as to why women do not use contraceptives. These reasons include logistical problems, scientific and religious concerns, limited access to transportation in order to access health clinics, lack of education and knowledge and opposition by partners, families or communities plus the fact that no one is able to control their fertility beyond basic behavior involving conception.

UNFPA says that “efforts to increase access must be sensitive to cultural and national contexts, and must consider economic, geographic and age disparities within countries.” [12]

UNFPA states that, “Poorer women and those in rural areas often have less access to family planning services. Certain groups — including adolescents, unmarried people, the urban poor, rural populations, sex workers and people living with HIV also face a variety of barriers to family planning. This can lead to higher rates of unintended pregnancy, increased risk of HIV and other STIs, limited choice of contraceptive methods, and higher levels of unmet need for family planning.” [12]

World Contraception Day[edit]

September 26 is designated as World Contraception Day, devoted to raising awareness of contraception and improving education about sexual and reproductive health, with a vision of "a world where every pregnancy is wanted".[94] It is supported by a group of international NGOs, including:

Asian Pacific Council on Contraception, Centro Latinamericano Salud y Mujer, European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health, German Foundation for World Population, International Federation of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Marie Stopes International, Population Services International, The Population Council, The USAID, Women Deliver.[94]


Some pro-life groups claim that the United Nations and World Health Organization advocate abortion as a form of family planning.[95]

Placard showing positive effects of family planning (Ethiopia)
Demand for Private Tutoring with and without access to family planning
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, "Trends in Contraceptive Use Worldwide 2015" New York: United Nations, 2015.
A family planning facility in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
In the 1970s the Singaporean government encouraged much smaller families.
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