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Credit: Said Khatib

Women and Girls

Family Planning

Three-day-old Waleed lies wrapped in blankets at his family's home in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah in 2016. Waleed was recognized as the two millionth person born in Gaza, a tiny enclave squeezed between Egypt, Israel, and the Mediterranean Sea. Gaza is just 7.5 miles across at its widest point, and has one of the highest population densities in the world.

Securing women’s right to voluntary, high-quality family planning around the world would have powerful positive impacts on the health, welfare, and life expectancy of both women and their children. It also can affect greenhouse gas emissions.

225 million women in lower-income countries say they want the ability to choose whether and when to become pregnant but lack the necessary access to contraception. The need persists in some high-income countries as well, including the United States where 45 percent of pregnancies are unintended. Currently, the world faces a $5.3 billion funding shortfall for providing the access to reproductive healthcare that women say they want to have.

Carbon footprints are a common topic. Addressing population—how many feet are leaving their tracks—remains controversial despite widespread agreement that greater numbers place more strain on the planet.

Honoring the dignity of women and children through family planning is not about governments forcing the birth rate down (or up, through natalist policies). Nor is it about those in rich countries, where emissions are highest, telling people elsewhere to stop having children. When family planning focuses on healthcare provision and meeting women’s expressed needs, empowerment, equality, and well-being are the result; the benefits to the planet are side effects.


access to contraception…unintended pregnancies: Singh, Susheela, Jacqueline E. Darroch, and Lori S. Ashford. Adding It Up: The Costs and Benefits of Investing in Sexual and Reproductive Health 2014. New York, NY: Guttmacher Institute and United Nations Population Fund, 2014.

United States…unintended [pregnancies]: Finer, L.B., and M.R. Zolna. “Declines in Unintended Pregnancy in the United States, 2008–2011.” New England Journal of Medicine, 374, no. 9 (2016): 843-852.

Paul Ehrlich and John Holdren…“IPAT”: Chertow, Marian R. “The IPAT Equation and Its Variants.” Journal of Industrial Ecology, 4 (2000): 13–29.

funding shortfall for…reproductive healthcare: Singh et al, Adding.

Iran…fertility rates halved: Weisman, Alan. Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? London: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

Bangladesh…door-to-door approach: Weiss, Kenneth R. “How Bangladesh’s Female Health Workers Boosted Family Planning.” The Guardian. June 6, 2014.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [on family planning]: Smith, K.R., A. Woodward, D. Campbell-Lendrum, et al. “Human Health: Impacts, Adaptation, and Co-benefits.” In Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Cambridge University Press, 2014.

building resilience [to climate impacts]: Mutunga, Clive. Population, Reproductive Health, and International Adaptation Finance. Washington, D.C.: Population Action International, 2013; UNFPA. State of the World Population 2015: Shelter from the Storm. New York: United Nations Population Fund, 2015.

family planning…development assistance: Wexler A., J, Kates, and E. Lief. Donor Government Assistance for Family Planning in 2014. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2015.

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p. 79

Two hundred and fourteen million women in lower-income countries.

The resulting emissions reductions could be 119.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide.

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Technical Summary

Technical summary coming soon.

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