Access to contraception is a universal human right that could dramatically improve the lives of women and children in poor countries, the United Nations announced Wednesday in a new report.
It is the first time the U.N. Population Fund's annual report explicitly describes family planning as a human right.
"Family planning has a positive multiplier effect on development," Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the fund, said in a written statement. "Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women's increased labor-force participation boosts nations' economies."
The report effectively declares that legal, cultural and financial barriers to accessing contraception and other family planning measures are an infringement of women's rights.
It is not binding and has no legal effect on national laws.
The global body also says increasing funding for family planning by a further $4.1 billion could save $11.3 billion annually in health bills for mothers and newborns in poor countries.
The U.N. doesn't count abortion among the measures.
In the United States, women are eligible to get free access to contraception and contraceptive counseling as of Aug. 1, 2012, when the provision of President of Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act went into effect.