New Pope, Pay Attention: More than 200 Million Women Worldwide Will Need Contraception By 2015

According to a new study conducted by the United Nations and the University of Singapore, 233 million women worldwide will have an unmet need for contraceptives by 2015. Although the unmet need for family planning has decreased between 1990 and 2010, the researchers project that the need for contraception will rise worldwide:

"The absolute number of married women who either use contraception or who have an unmet need for family planning is projected to grow from 900 million in 2010 to 962 million in 2015, and will increase in most developing countries."

They found that the largest increase in the amount of women using contraception occurred in southern Asia and eastern, northern, as well as southern Africa. In spite of these gains, central and western Africa is still lagging behind. Contraceptive use is still scarily low: 4 in 5 women don’t use any form of birth control. 

Daniel Grossman, the VP for research at the Ibis Reproductive Health. spoke to the Huffington Post and explained that the importance of family planning is not only paramount for women but also essential for society at large:

"Contraception is the single most cost-effective intervention that can reduce maternal mortality ... improve maternal and child health and help women and families achieve their desired family size."

The new findings have led the United Nations to conclude that the projected growth in the number of women necessitating family planning points to a need for greater investment in these methods. 

As cardinals in Rome are preparing to determine who will become the next head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, the issue of contraception is on everybody's lips.  Pope Benedict’s track record when it came to family planning was conservative (to say the least) but according to an Angus Reid Public Opinion Survey published yesterday, a majority of Roman Catholics in the US and Canada are ready for a more "liberal" pope. Among frequent churchgoers in Canada, 60% reported wanting the Vatican "to take a more liberal approach to contraception." Support for contraception jumped to 77% amongst Catholics who attend church less than once a week. Vancouver-based Angus Reid pollster and practicing catholic Mario Canseco explains that the numbers in their survey in the United States are very similar. He told the Vancouver Sun:

"Most Catholics see no problem with contraception, ... There are other changes the Vatican could make, but to me allowing contraception would be the safest."

He also believes this poll will "send a powerful message" by allowing condoms and birth-control pills, especially since it would "help keep people alive."

Hopefully the 115 cardinals participating in the conclave will take notice when electing the next Pope.  If the projected 233 million women with unmet needs aren't enough to convince them to choose a liberal-minded person, I’m not sure what will.