Melinda Gates Writes Essay Advocating For Birth Control And The Added Opportunities It Makes Possible

“Like most women I know, I have used contraceptives for many years."

Melinda Gates wants more women to experience the power of birth control. The philanthropist, businesswoman and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation set an ambitious goal for herself: in 2012, at the Family Planning 2020 summit, she pledged to try and get 120 million more women contraceptives by the year 2020. 

"Like most women I know, I have used contraceptives for many years," Gates wrote in an essay for National Geographic. "I knew I wanted to work both before and after becoming a mom, so I delayed getting pregnant until Bill and I were sure we were ready to start our family."

Gates' essay comes in the wake of President Donald Trump reinstating the Mexico City Policy, a global gag rule that bars federal funding from supporting nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that so much as discuss abortion or birth control with their patients. Opponents of the Mexico City Policy argue that limiting the health services support of these NGOs won't put a stop to abortion, but instead will just make procedures less safe and provide fewer contraceptives to people in the developing world.

People like Gates are hoping to pick up the slack. 

Still, it's an uphill battle. Since making their pledge, Family Planning 2020 has been falling short of their goal. We are at the halfway mark to 2020 and the organization has still only provided 24 million women with family planning services, well short of 60 million. Still, if Family Planning 2020 is able to get their services to millions more in the next three years, the outcome could be profound. 

"Not only do moms benefit; their kids benefit, too," Gates wrote. "In communities where women have access to contraceptives, children stay in school longer, and entire families are healthier, wealthier and far better equipped to break the cycle of poverty."

There are more than 225 million women across the globe that want to be able to delay or avoid pregnancy but don't have access to modern contraceptives, according to the U.N.  

In her essay, Gates discusses the experience of meeting two different women in a village in India. One, a 40-year-old who had five children after marrying as a teenager, said she spent most of her life feeding her kids, cleaning her home, tending to animals and worrying about her children. She had little time to earn an income or do anything for herself.

Another woman, Sushila, who was 28 years old, grew up in an era where the village had access to contraceptives. She planned two pregnancies and was raising children a few years apart.

"Sushila also told me that as soon as both her kids are in school, she plans to return to her job as a teacher," Gates wrote. "A generation ago, working moms were almost unheard of in villages like Kamrawa. But now that women have the option to plan their pregnancies, they have many other options, too."

Sushila, a teacher, and a little boy read a book.

That access, and the ability to plan, is one Gates hopes to provide to as many women as possible. 

"In 2012, we made a promise to women around the world," she wrote. "Our actions over the next three years will decide whether we keep it."

Cover photo: JStone / Shutterstock, Inc.

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