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Effective, accessible contraception can have a remarkable impact on quality of life. It allows people to create the family they want, when they want it. It helps them space children, which allows for healthier babies. And for women who face health risks should they get pregnant, it can be a lifesaver.

On September 26, World Contraception Day highlights contraception’s ability to empower family planning, reduce teen pregnancy, and protect the health of women and babies. But it also reminds us that too many people around the world lack access to effective contraception.

In developing countries, more than 200 million women who want to plan for their children, lack access to birth control services. In many cases, they can’t even find accurate information. These shortfalls have tragic consequences. Worldwide, around 70,000 adolescent girls die from complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth.

Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that there are so many different forms of birth control: the pill, injections, implants, patches, IUDs, diaphragms, condoms. And yet, worldwide, there’s a complete disconnect between these many options and the regional scarcity that afflicts so many people.

Planned Parenthood is on it. Through our international arm, Planned Parenthood Global, we partner with more than 100 groups throughout Africa and South America to help families gain better access to birth control.

The first step is education, where people understand what birth control can (and cannot) do for them, as well as their options and the pros and cons of each.

We also want women to have access to safe abortions. Unfortunately, one of our ongoing efforts is to simply help women get treatment after they’ve had an unsafe abortion. Once again, restrictive policies can have tragic consequences.

There’s one word that needs to be emphasized: access. Families have a right to contraception. That means access to education, access to services, and access to the contraceptives themselves. It’s about giving people the ability to determine the arcs of their own lives. But most importantly, it’s about good health for all.

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