November 24, 2012

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) drew international headlines this past week for claiming a new human right to contraception.

Contraception as a human right is a centerpiece of UNFPA’s annual state of world population report “By Choice, Not By Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights, and Development”. Borrowing from the language of natural law, the executive summary declares that “today, family planning is almost universally recognized as an intrinsic right, affirmed and upheld by many other human rights.”

Human rights experts point out that human rights do not come about by the assertions of UN agencies and that no such agreement exists among Member States.

The report frequently refers to the discredited idea of “unmet need” for contraception. Critics consider “unmet need” “advocacy construct” and say it does not represent actual demand. A video documenting UNFPA’s efforts to bring contraception to Uganda, shows how hard advocates must sell what is supposedly a “need”. In the video health logistics consultant Moses Muwonge claims “the unmet need for contraceptives is 41% in Uganda,” but then he points out they have to use the mass media to sell their use.

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