People have attempted to control their parental choices throughout history. Information about birth control was once considered “obscene” material that would erode public morals, in much the same way as pornography. Reproductive rights are now considered an important aspect of basic human rights in many countries, yet there are still many in which women are still struggling to achieve those rights.
Despite the continuing efforts of religious and political groups to control women’s access to contraception, in countries where it is available, the quality of life has improved considerably. Improved mental health, financial security, and increased political participation are just a few of the benefits of the ability to choose when to have children that contraception has provided women. Safe and effective contraception increases parental choices and has changed both women’s lives and society as a whole.
One of those positive changes include lower incidences of child abuse. The consequences of unintended pregnancies are both far-reaching and long-lasting. Countries with the lowest accessibility to birth control have the highest rates of forced child marriages, domestic abuse, abortion, poverty, and deaths resulting from childbirth. They also have the lowest literacy rates for women.
Most Popular Forms of Contraception
According to a 2009 United Nations report, the two most commonly used methods of contraception in developed countries are the pill and the male condom. However, in developing countries the two most commonly used methods are female sterilization and the IUD. Increasingly, female sterilization is becoming the preferred method for couples exercising their parental choices and is currently the most utilized form of contraception in the world as a whole. In developed countries, the most common method is still the birth control pill at 28% or approximately 10.6 million women, closely followed by female sterilization at 27%, or approximately 10.2 million women.
Female sterilization levels are highest in Latin America, China, India and the Caribbean. The IUD is used by 14% of women worldwide, making it the second most widely used form of contraception. Male condoms ranked at number four worldwide. Other modern contraceptive methods such as implants are gaining popularity, especially in Eastern and Southern Africa. Depo-provera is also becoming increasingly popular because a single dose can provide contraceptive effects for 12 weeks.
Sterilization has sometimes been used by governments in eugenics programs, and one article points out the disturbing fact that very few men utilize this option as compared to women. Despite the fact that the procedure is simpler and safer for men than for women, according to one article, as of 2009, the ratio of female sterilization to male vasectomies was 5 to 1. This reflects a widespread societal belief that birth control is largely a female responsibility. However, more men are now recognizing the benefits of increasing the number of parental choices for themselves as well as their families.
The Continuing Controversy Surrounding Parental Choices
Many people believe that even potential life is sacred and that preventing conception is wrong. In the continuing controversy over parental choices, members of religious groups who work in the health care field claim that government mandates to provide contraception is a violation of their religious freedom. Many pharmacists in the U site web.S. have refused to fill prescriptions for birth control as well as morning-after pills in cases of rape. This resulted in a recent Supreme Court case in which new rules were introduced for religious institutions and businesses with a moral objection to the birth control aspect of the Affordable Care Act.
Carl Djerassi, the father of modern birth control and inventor of “the pill” has been quoted as saying that with the advent of birth control, “sex became separated from its reproductive consequences”. However, birth control has done very little to protect women from the social consequences of freely expressing their sexuality. There are many opinions about why there continues to be a sexual double standard. One article maintains that women themselves perpetuate it through excessive competition. Feminists tend to point towards economic factors such as wage inequality and the capitalistic commodification of sex as reasons for the continued double standard.
Of the many benefits to mankind that the ability for people to choose when, and whether, to become parents, perhaps the greatest is that of increasing the number of children who are wanted. While people may disagree about how best to achieve the goal of a world in which every child is wanted and every parent able to care for them, everyone agrees that children deserve nothing less than to be welcomed and loved. Parental choices are helping to make that ideal world a reality.