As the director of the DelMar Global Trust, a private foundation with climate change as its primary focus, I am often asked how grants to organizations that support women’s reproductive health fit into our overall strategy.
Family planning services have a positive ripple effect. Providing women with the ability to control their own pregnancies improves the health of the mother and child, and increases resilience within communities to respond to civil and environmental threats (such as food insecurity).
Women’s health merits support in its own right, but international aid is often inadequate. There are 214 million women worldwide with an unmet need for modern methods of contraception. From a grant making perspective, funding women’s reproductive health benefits women and an array of cross cutting social issues, including the environment.
The ability to choose if or when to have children helps break the cycle of poverty. Family planning allows women and girls to finish their education, hold a job, and better plan for the future. Contributing to the family income also gives women a stronger voice in household matters, which often results in better decisions for the entire family.
Although family size typically decreases as countries become more developed, the global population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, with the fastest rates of growth in developing countries. Providing every woman who wants it with modern contraception can ease pressure on our scarce natural resources and help governments better address poverty, food insecurity, and social justice issues, while making a smoother transition to environmentally sustainable economies.
Developed countries also benefit from family planning. A recent initiative in Colorado offers an example of the social and economic benefits of contraception. From 2009-2015 a private grant offered free long-term birth control to teenagers and low-income women. The results were astounding: teen pregnancies fell 40% and abortions fell by 42%. The numbers were even more pronounced in low-income areas.
According to the New York Times, “The Colorado state health department estimated that every dollar spent on the long-acting birth control initiative saved $5.85 for the state’s Medicaid program, which covers more than three-quarters of teenage pregnancies and births.”
Yet, despite all the evidence and broad-base support for greater reproductive health services, the Trump administration continues to recklessly push for policies that will most certainly increase the number of unintended pregnancies in the US and worldwide. No one wins in this scenario—these policies are bad for women, families, the economy, and the environment.
Del Mar Global Trust is a relatively small foundation with limited resources. Although most of our grants support organizations that have a more direct association with climate change and related issues, we also support organizations like International Planned Parenthood Federation/WHR that increase access to family planning.
Compared to other investments like renewable energy, new energy efficient technologies, or social behavioral change initiatives, family planning is a relatively easy and cost-effective investment.
It is estimated that every $7 invested in family planning may reduce carbon emissions by more than one ton; while a $32 investment in low carbon energy technology would be needed to produce the same result.
Investing in contraception has environmental, social and economic benefits. Provide a community with voluntary family planning services and witness the effects: healthier mothers and babies, fewer abortions and maternal deaths, higher household income, increased local economic productivity, stronger and more resilient communities and a healthier environment.
Elena Marszalek is the managing director of Del Mar Global Trust, a private foundation with a focus on the environment. She is also a trustee of the Bay Branch Foundation, and a trustee of the Mary Lea Johnson Richards Charitable Trust, both of which support health and arts programs in their respective communities.