She first made her pledge in 2012, but it’s gained new importance this year
In the wake of recent threats to women’s reproductive freedoms, Melinda Gates is reminding the world of a pledge she made to help millions of women access birth control. She shares her own experiences as just one example of how crucial affordable birth control is for women and their families.
Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Tom Price, M.D., a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Georgia, was confirmed last week as secretary of health and human services. Disturbingly, Price has been very vocal about wanting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is how many American women currently obtain birth control.
His appointment was the latest blow to women’s healthcare since the Trump administration took office and signed an executive “gag order” barring federal money from funding organizations all over the world that offer abortion services, including ones that provide free birth control access.
In an op-ed for National Geographic, Gates details her 2012 commitment to providing birth control for 120 million women in need, a global initiative called Family Planning 2020, and says she’s more determined than ever to make it a reality. “We are now more than halfway to the 2020 deadline, but not yet on track to reach 120 million women by the promised date. As of the halfway point in July 2016, we had reached 24 million additional women with family planning services. Unless we begin making up for lost time, we will miss this chance to make this a turning point for women around the world.”
In her appeal, Gates shares how birth control helped shape her own family and gave her and husband Bill Gates the ability to live life on their terms. “I knew I wanted to work both before and after becoming a mom, so I delayed getting pregnant until Bill and I were sure we were ready to start our family. Twenty years later, we have three children, born almost exactly three years apart. None of that happened by accident.”
She explains how when women are able to plan when to get pregnant (or not) they’re better equipped to finish school and get a job. Gates also reminds us it’s not just women who have a better quality of life when birth control is easy to obtain. “And not only do moms benefit; their kids benefit, too. In communities where women have access to contraceptives, children stay in school longer, and entire families are healthier, wealthier and far better equipped to break the cycle of poverty.”
One of Trump’s campaign promises was to defund Planned Parenthood, and if that happens, even more women will find themselves without access to affordable birth control. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for those who are able to make a difference and fight for a woman’s right to reproductive healthcare, including affordable birth control, to have their voices heard. We’re grateful women like Melinda Gates use their platform and resources to speak for those who can’t.