Role Of Supranationalism In Family Planning Programs And The Proliferation Of Contraception

By: Rebecca Brindza, Editor-ICN International


USA/ISRAEL: Policymakers in the present day have grown increasingly aware of the “multidimensional set of social processes that create, multiply, stretch, and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges while at the same time fostering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between the local and the distant.” (Steger, 2005).

Therefore, it is no surprise that within the globalized era, national policies have become deeply intertwined with global issues. This is echoed by the fact that developing states are increasingly susceptible to happenings in the global arena, and as a byproduct “have come to depend heavily on the international community for financial and technical assistance” (Zaei, 2014). It is within this context, that this paper will seek to analyze the changes in global governance relating to population control. It will do so by examining the historical evolution of global fertility polices, as well as global trends of access and use of contraceptive methods around the world.

Using research and empirical data spanning seventy years, this paper will delve into the various changes of attitudes regarding women’s health by global players; from taboo to UN and government mandated programs and support. It will cover several important events and subsequent changes relating to women’s health, starting with the UN decade of development in the 1960’s all the way up to the 2000’s and commitments like Family Planning 2020 (FP2020).

For the purpose of this paper, population programs refer to “the enactment of nationally defined policies or organized strategies to affect demographic trends and patterns,” and family planning programs are viewed as “organized efforts to assure that couples who want to limit their family size and space their children have access to contraceptive information and services and are encouraged to use them as needed” (Tsui, 2001). These programs can either be implemented directly through national health services or indirectly through third parties such as family planning associations or NGOs.

1945-1960: Early Population Policies

Spurred by the advent of modern medicine and subsequent fall in death rates during the early 20th century, global demographics underwent considerable change as budding nation-states witnessed significant levels of population growth. Echoing the ideas of nineteenth century British theorist, Thomas Robert Malthus in his, ‘Essay on the Principle of Population,’ the United States forecasted that rapid population growth would lead to resource insecurities in the Third World, and ultimately serve as a barrier for socioeconomic development. It was in this nature, that international collaboration served as the impetus for several national governments to implement population policies and methods of family planning (Yeates, 2014).

Following the establishment of the UN in 1945, the need for demographic research on population growth and socioeconomic development based trends gained ground in the international community. Among the first states to receive UN assistance on demographic research and analytical studies were Brazil, India, Indonesia and Thailand. Moreover, the subject continued to gain leverage in 1954 when the international community convened in Rome for the first World Population Conference. The symposium was organized by the UN and delegates sought to “focus on the need to study all populations in the context of their particular economic, social and cultural conditions” (UN, 2003).

Yet, support for population control was not always cut and dry. This was signaled in a statement made by US President Eisenhower in 1959 when he rejected a plea to aid third world countries in this arena, arguing that it was “not a proper function or responsibility of the government” (UN, 2003). Undeterred by the waffling international arena during this time, several national governments in the developing world took matters into their own hands. In 1951, India became the first among developing states to endorse population control via “explicit policies such as promoting contraception and/or establishing incentives to have fewer children” (Joshi, 2011).

1960-1970: Family Planning and the ‘Birth Control Revolution’

After having been deemed the UN Decade of Development by the UN General Assembly, the 1960’s saw development become a primary target of UN assistance as well as several global initiatives regarding population control (UN, 2003).Prior to the meeting in Belgrade, the realm of global public health had customarily depicted family planning methods as a taboo instrument for population management due to concerns of it being an inappropriate form of governmental intervention. Be that as it may, the modern family planning movement persevered and was beginning to make waves in the global arena.

In 1952, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) was established in London with ‘birth control pioneer’ Margaret Sanger assuming the role of president (Robinson and Ross, 2007). Shortly thereafter the ‘birth control revolution’ started to gain speed as new forms of contraception, such as the pill and the IUD, entered the market (Pritchett, 1994). Moreover these developments concluded that sexual activity and pregnancy were no longer mutually exclusive, which propelled the idea that women could and should “exert some control over their reproductive lives” (UN, 2003).

The Conference at Belgrade “discussed national family planning programmes in some 20 developing countries, and the question appeared to be not whether programmes were needed but whether they were effective” (UN, 2003). By this time several countries in the developing world had already commenced family planning programs of their own, yet the reasoning behind doing so varied greatly. In Latin America, for example, Chile was the first to fuse family planning into national health services due to increasing government apprehensions regarding the increase in illegal abortions being performed at the time.

On the other hand, contraceptive prevalence within the developing regions of the world still fell under 20%. While Asian and Latin American states had managed to break the 10% margin, those in the the Middle East and Africa continued to lag barely pushing 5% (Tsui, 2001). Reasons for so still pertained to unfavorable national attitudes concerning international involvement in domestic matters of population and family planning (UN, 2003).

Despite the lagging support, representatives at the Human Rights Conference gathered in Tehran, and on May 13, 1968 agreed that as the international community, it was of their utmost concern to protect the family unit by acknowledging that all questions surrounding family planning, in essence when to conceive as well as how many children to have, were explicit functions in the basic human rights held by all parents worldwide. Furthermore, they set the threshold for future matters of population control by establishing that all children should be wanted children and as an implication of so, “Governments had an obligation to accept responsibility for the provision of family planning information and services to enable couples to plan the size of their families” (UN, 2003).

Rebecca Brindza is an Inquisitive Researcher and Social scientist.

Her areas of expertise include international affairs, diplomacy and strategy, conflict resolution, mental health issues and disaster & emergency management.

Her independent research involves discovering innovative, track-2 approaches for cross-cultural collaboration within the Greater Middle East in the fields of health, science, and innovative technology etc.

To Be Continued…..

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