( Remy Steinegger/Wikimedia)
In a world where access to birth control and family planning services seem like they’re constantly under threat, billionaire Melinda Gates is using her extreme personal wealth to provide birth control to women all over the world. Her goal is to provide birth control for 120 million women by 2020, because she knows that giving women control over their reproductive lives will help them, their children, their communities, and the whole world.
In an Op-Ed in Forbes, Gates says her own family, and her own academic and career success, were directly related to birth control.
“When women are able to plan their pregnancies around their goals for themselves and their families, they are also better able to finish their education, earn an income, and fully participate in their communities,” wrote Gates, who has an MBA and degrees in both computer science and economics from Duke.
Gates wants to extend birth control access to women all over the world, because she knows that will have an extreme impact on those women, and a far-reaching impact on the world as a whole. Women with access to birth control are more likely to have fewer children, to be able to take better care of the children they do have, and to provide for themselves and their families and their communities.
Gates said the extreme importance of contraception on women’s health and global poverty became clear to her when she was traveling as part of her work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She would go places to talk about poverty, opportunity, and development, and everywhere she went, women would bring up contraception or pregnancy. For them, the ideas were inextricably linked.
The world could really benefit from more progressive female billionaires. Susan Buffett’s foundation dropped the teen pregnancy rate in Colorado by 40 percent and the number of teens getting abortions in Colorado by 42 percent since 2009, by bankrolling a program to provide free IUDs to teenagers and poor women in that state. (Buffett died in 2004, but was an active advocate of reproductive freedom during her lifetime.)
Gates has three children. They were born three years apart, which Gates says was absolutely on purpose. They were also born after she had finished graduate school and established a successful career, which was also completely intentional. Access to contraception creates choice, and it creates opportunities.
“The decision about whether and when to get pregnant was a decision that Bill and I made based on what was right for me and what was right for our family—and that’s something I feel lucky about. There are still over 225 million women around the world who don’t have access to the modern contraceptives they need to make these decisions for themselves,” Gates wrote.