Donald Trump may have voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and reinstated the global gag rule (which cuts funding from any organization even offering information on abortion as an option), but there are still plenty of influential figures in the States who are speaking out from the “pro-reproductive choice” corner.
Melinda Gates, as in Bill Gates‘ longtime wife and successful businesswoman in her own right, is one of them.
The mother is a loud advocate when it comes to getting contraception into the hands of all women around the world, a mission that The Gates Foundation has taken pretty seriously over the years. In an annual letter from the organization that was released earlier this week, the Gates revealed that 300 million women in developing countries now have access to birth control: that’s a rise of 50 per cent from 13 years ago.
At the same time as the Gates released the letter, Melinda Gates wrote a powerful essay for Fortune, in which she says her career is a direct result of her ability to choose when she would have children.
“It’s no accident that my three kids were born three years apart — or that I didn’t have my first child until I’d finished graduate school and devoted a decade to my career,” she wrote. “My family, my career, my life as I know it are all the direct result of contraceptives. And now, I realize how lucky that makes me.”
Gates went on to acknowledge that while the foundation and Family Planning 2020 (a group of government agencies that are working to try to get contraception for more than 390 million women in the developing world in the next three years), have made some strides, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“Even as I write this, there are 225 million women in the world who do not want to get pregnant but do not have access to modern contraceptives. A recent change to U.S. global health policy will soon drive that number up even higher,” she continued. “And as we continue to debate this issue, I think it’s important that all of us understand its stakes from the perspective of the women whose families and futures hang in the balance.”
Given all of the recent political changes this seems as relevant an argument as any these days, even if we women in Canada are lucky enough to have the right to control our own bodies. Because, as Gates is quick to remind us, there are plenty of women in the world who don’t have that option, and it can be a very dangerous thing for them.
“These days, when I meet with leaders who still aren’t convinced that contraceptives deserve a place on the agenda, here’s what I tell them: If you care about giving children a chance at a healthy future, if you care about giving women a chance to take their families from poverty to prosperity, and if you care about giving poor countries the chance to become rich ones, then you must care about contraceptives,” she wrapped.
“Both evidence and experience show that empowered women are drivers of progress, creators of wealth, and the world’s greatest force for transforming societies. The women I met overseas are ready and willing to contribute to a better future for all of us. We should take it on ourselves to make sure they have that chance.”