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Today, July 11, 2012 is the beginning of the London Summit on Family Planning.

The government of the United Kingdom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation along with other partners, are hosting a summit that will mobilize global policy, financing, and service delivery commitments to support the rights of an additional 120 million women and girls in the world’s poorest countries to use contraceptive information, services and supplies, without coercion or discrimination, by 2020.

That’s awesome! This is the first initiative of its kind. Right now in developing countries, more than 200 million women and girls who don’t want to get pregnant, have no choice about it. This summit will change that. It is the beginning of offering them choice. Right now, there is a lack of access to contraceptives, information, and services. This kills many women and babies every year and leaves many children motherless.  

Family planning saves lives, improves health, strengthens communities, and stimulates economic growth. Being able to plan for a family is a blessing for all people worldwide. It means more children will be wanted, loved, healthy, and taken care of. It means fewer women will die in childbirth. It means that fewer women will be bound by pregnancy to men who hurt them. It means women who have illnesses will have less risk of furthering that illness, passing it on, or having a child who may not be able to be cared for by her if she is sick. It means women will be able to decide that having another child will be economically a strain on the family and will protect themselves against another pregnancy. It means women will be able to choose when to work and advance careers and when to try to get pregnant. It means more population control rather than overload when there are few resources. It means fewer abortions that often are unsafe and may lead to a woman’s death.

There are a lot of goals. Among what the Summit participants will work to do is:

* revitalize global commitments to family planning and access to contraceptives as a cost-effective and transformational development priority

* improve the access and distribution of contraceptive supplies

*remove and reduce barriers to family planning and expand family planning choices offered to women,

*make long-acting and permanent methods of family planning, such as intrauterine devices, contraceptive implants, vasectomy, and female sterilization, available and acceptable,

*increase the number of skilled health workers trained and allowed to provide family planning services,

*make family planning an essential component of health care services for the year after delivery or after an abortion.

It means women will have more power over their bodies, which means also that women will have growing power in their communities. 

We must preserve women’s right to contraception in our own communities and eliminate stigma against women who use it. Things like putting forth the idea that women who want access to contraception are ‘sluts,’ (Rush Limbaugh) is not only dangerous, it keeps women from seeking potentially life-saving services and from making choices about their bodies and reproductive health that will also impact their lives and the health of their families.

Women worldwide must have the option of using contraception, this is a major step toward enabling communities to come together to accept women as equals, giving women voice and choice for their lives.

Now is the time to come together to help the world’s poorest women. Women everywhere must have access to contraception and must be able to make choices for their bodies and lives!

Grrl Code: Support women in making choices for their lives and bodies. Stay in touch for what’s going on in London and what is going on in your own community.