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UN Report: Inequality, Denial of Reproductive Rights Threaten Development

FILE - A community health worker holds up contraceptives during a lecture on family planning at a reproductive health clinic run by an NGO in Tondo city, metro Manila, January 12, 2016.

A U.N. report warns gender inequality and the denial of reproductive rights and family planning threatens development goals, weakens national economies and will undermine efforts to eliminate poverty by 2030.

In its annual State of World Population report, the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) describes the poorest women in most developing countries as the most powerless members of society. It says the poorest women have the least access to care during pregnancy and childbirth. And it says the inequality has life-long repercussions for women’s health, ability to get an education and employment.

UNFPA Geneva Office Director Monica Ferro said family planning is not only a human right, but necessary for women’s empowerment. She said a woman or adolescent who cannot enjoy reproductive rights cannot stay healthy. She and her family will be locked into lifelong poverty and deprivation.

“Limited access to family planning translates into 89 million unintended pregnancies and 48 million abortions in developing countries annually. This does not only harm women’s health, but also restricts their ability to join or stay in the paid labor force and move towards financial independence,” Ferro said.

Ferro also expressed regret over the decision by the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump not to fund the U.N. Population Fund. In April, the administration announced it was cutting the U.S. contribution which in 2016 stood at $63 million. Ferro said that will take a heavy toll on the health and well-being of thousands of impoverished women in developing countries.

“With previous United States contribution for UNFPA, we were really fighting gender-based violence and reducing maternal deaths, especially in fragile and crisis and disaster-hit countries,” Ferro said.

They include Iraq, Nepal, Sudan, Syria, the Philippines, Ukraine and Yemen. Ferro added the U.S. contribution helped save the lives of thousands of women during pregnancy and childbirth. In addition, she said the organization was able to prevent thousands of unwanted pregnancies and provide other crucial family planning services.