Improving maternal health has been a primary goal of the international community led by three United Nations Agencies (UN Populations Fund (UNFPA), the World Bank and the World Health Organization) since they launched the Safe Motherhood Initiative in 1987. Over the years their goals have been reviewed and updated, and in 2007, in recognition to the close links between maternal health and other reproductive conditions, a second target–ensuring universal access to reproductive health services was added to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
According to UNFPA, about 200 million women and girls globally who want to use contraceptives do not have access to them. In a survey conducted in Uganda, 41% of the women who responded wished to space their pregnancies further apart–a key health factor for both mothers and children–but lacked access to contraception and family planning services. The Ugandan government has failed to respond with resources to address this need despite the fact that their country has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. In other countries like Zambia and Ethiopia, empty dispensaries are all too common.
Lack of access to birth control leads to abortions and according to the World Health Organization, an estimate 20 million unsafe abortions take place each year. Worldwide, at least 68,000 women annually die from such procedures, and another estimated 5 million women per year suffer long-term injury.(Grimes DA et al. Lancet Reprod Health Ser. 2006).
Considering what we spend on defense and bailing out unscrupulous banks, the cost of contraception is pennies, yet the lives it could save are immense.