Shifting Fortunes for Family Planning: The Role of Norms

Jeremy Shiffman, American University
Kathryn Quissell, American University

Support for family planning in low-income countries has stagnated over the last decade. In response, proponents have sought to rekindle commitment, arguing that the issue could re-emerge as a priority if they can persuade political leaders that family planning provision is crucial to achieving a number of the MDGs. This paper examines the debates among global proponents concerning why family planning should be supported. They have advanced two primary arguments. Ecological arguments focus principally on the benefits of population stabilization for national development. Rights arguments focus primarily on the ability of women to live healthy and meaningful lives. These ideas, and the individuals and organizations that have advanced them, have co-existed uneasily. Moreover, proponents have faced critiques from institutions external to the field. Supporters now emphasize the MDG argument. Their ability to use this rationale may depend on how well they manage internal disagreements, and anticipate potential external critiques.

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Presented in Session 148: Population Change and Development in LDCs