By Amanda Seller, President, MSI United States
Today’s donors want to know that their donations are having a measurable impact. With so many serious problems facing our world, it can be hard to decide where your gifts will have the best “return on investment.”
But there’s one intervention that consistently improves lives, makes families healthier and more economically secure, and transforms whole communities. It reduces maternal and newborn deaths, advances gender equality, keeps girls in school, and makes communities more resilient to climate change: Contraception.
As a world leader in women’s reproductive health and one of the largest providers of contraception, MSI Reproductive Choices has seen first-hand how providing women with contraception is one of the most impactful investments a person can make. In fact, research by the independent Copenhagen Consensus Center named family planning a “best buy” for global development, with long-term health and economic benefits worth $120 for each dollar spent on family planning.
Improving health and wellbeing
Right now, 257 million women worldwide want to avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern method of contraception. They’re denied basic bodily autonomy—and that has impact not just on their own lives, but on their families and communities as well.
In their Adding It Up report, the Guttmacher Institute examines the impact of fully investing in sexual and reproductive healthcare. They estimate that unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and pregnancy-related deaths would drop by two-thirds if all women who wanted to avoid pregnancy in low- and middle-income countries were able to use contraception and all pregnant women received adequate healthcare. Newborn deaths and new HIV infections would also decrease significantly.
Even a small increase in contraceptive use has a big impact: A recent study on lives saved in South Africa estimates that a 0.7% annual increase in use of modern contraceptives would lead to 7,000 fewer infant and child deaths and 600 fewer maternal deaths by 2030.
Providing adequate reproductive healthcare for women in low- and middle-income countries would cost an additional $31 billion. That’s a lot of money, but the impact goes beyond the individual lives saved and improved health. Every additional $1 spent on contraceptive services saves $3 in the cost of maternal, newborn and abortion care by reducing unintended pregnancies. That’s money that countries can invest in infrastructure, health and education.
When girls can finish their education, they’re better able to earn a living—improving the family’s financial stability and contributing to their community’s economic development. In fact, educating girls and adding women to the workforce has the potential to add up to $12 trillion USD to global growth.
But in many low- and middle-income countries, a girl is more likely to become pregnant than to finish secondary school. In fact, MSI estimates that in sub-Saharan Africa alone, up to four million teenage girls drop out of school due to pregnancy each year.
When they do become pregnant, the health consequences can be serious. Adolescents are twice as likely to die due to pregnancy-related complications compared to adult women, and children born to adolescents are more likely to have poor health outcomes. Adolescent pregnancies rob girls of their potential, endanger their health and deprive entire communities of economic growth.
Adolescents face extra barriers in accessing contraception. Guttmacher found that 43% of women ages 15-19 in low- and middle-income countries want to avoid pregnancy but are not using contraception. Reaching these young women with reproductive health sets them on a path to higher income and greater household assets for their families, creating more prosperous communities.
Advancing gender equality
The impacts of contraception go beyond allowing an individual woman to avoid an unintended pregnancy. When women can plan their families, they can plan their whole lives, allowing them to pursue paid work or advance their education. Control over fertility helps women break the cycle of poverty by giving them the chance to invest in the children they already have.
Education and economic stability help people become leaders, create social change and exercise political power – activities still disproportionately performed by men. And for a woman, these are inextricably linked to her ability to access reproductive healthcare on her own terms.
The impact of contraception ripples out to families, communities and entire countries. And there’s never been a better time to invest.
Today, there are 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10-24—the largest generation of young people in history. The vast majority of them live in developing countries. If given the opportunity to control their bodies and futures now, they can spur economic development, transform their countries, and create a better future for all of us.
For a good “return on investment,” it’s hard to beat contraception. By making choice possible for women and girls, donors can have profound impact.
MSI Reproductive Choices is an international NGO working in 37 countries on six continents. MSI believes reproductive choice is fundamental to gender equality, girls’ education, women’s political and economic participation, climate resilience, poverty alleviation, health and wellbeing and many other interrelated issues. We deliver on our commitment to helping women make their own life decisions by making reproductive choice possible. As one of the world’s largest providers of contraception, safe abortion services and post-abortion care, MSI served more than 21.1 million people in 2022 through our 300 centers, hundreds of outreach teams, 1,000+ nurses and midwives. partnerships with government health ministries, and network of pharmacies and private providers.
MSI United States is a US 501(c)3 non-profit that supports the international NGO and has a perfect 100 score from Charity Navigator and a platinum rating from Candid.
For more information, visit msiunitedstates.org