Sometimes putting things into perspective really helps us see the bigger picture. Did you know that as we speak, there are 222 million women that have an unmet need for reproductive health? That's the entire population of Germany, Spain, Belgium, France and The Netherlands put together. These women, who are scattered around the developing world, need something that's fundamentally essential to their health but that they can't get: access to modern contraceptives.
Responding to that unmet need has been a global priority for many developed countries. According to Population Action International, if the United States committed its "fair share" to reach this goal, it would cost the country one billion dollars. I know what you're thinking. That's a whole lot of grub. Imagine all of the tacos I could buy with that? I know, I thought of that too. But when you crunch the numbers, it's not really that much, especially if you factor in that it would cost the average taxpayer: about 3 bucks over the course of a year (which is less than one cent per day). That's only like one and a half tacos. Actually, the sum of money required for these all these women to have access to reproductive health is equal to the amount Americans spend on Superbowl snacks every single year. I'm not saying we should stop buying nachos and guacamole altogether (don't you dare take away my BFFFs — best food friends forever), but maybe we could care about Super Bowl snacks as much as 222 million women's reproductive well-being? Sounds like a no brainer.
Moreover, spending one dollar on reproductive health benefits is an investment that really pays off. It has positive spill-over effects that mean big-time savings for everyone in the long run. Family planning is of the most cost-effective strategies able to improve an entire society's well-being. It is not only paramount for women, it's essential for society at large. As the graph above shows, spending one dollar on reproductive health, translates into saving $4 in other important areas such as education, health care and even sanitation. All those sectors matter to everyone, not just women.
Furthermore, increasing access to family planning and contraception doesn't only save money, it saves lives. This one billion dollar investment could save 79,000 lives from reproductive health complications this year. It could also reduce the amount of infant deaths by 1 million. Enabling women to use family planning services can also prevent 26 million abortions, many of which are unsafe.
The United Nations backs up the Population Action International's initiative with a report it published earlier this year showing that family planning is urgently needed because the amount of women requiring it is projected to increase. "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," the report states.
Further, an abundance of research supports that "reproductive health policy is economic policy." Giving women autonomy over their bodies, allows them to flourish as contributing and active members of society. It increases women's and girls' education rates, augments their participation in the job market, lowers their absenteeism at work, and decreases the probability of multi-generational poverty.
Involving men in reproductive health programs is not optional, it's necessary. They have their own reproductive needs and are indispensable in the fight for women's sexual freedom. More international programs are inviting men to engage with these issues and become allies to make family planning everyone's business.
So what is the U.S. government waiting for? When will it take the pledge and join in this international effort and make a pivotal difference?