Respecting Autonomy in Population Policy: An Argument for International Family Planning Programs

Public Health Ethics 3 (2):157-166 (2010)
Abstract
This paper addresses whether universal, general education programs are enough to satisfy basic criteria of human rights, or whether comprehensive family planning programs, in conjunction with universal education programs, might also be morally required. Even before the Reagan administration instituted the ‘global gag rule’ at the 1984 conference in Mexico City, prohibiting funding to nongovernmental organizations that included providing information about abortion as a possible method of family planning, the moral acceptability of family planning programs has been called into question. This paper makes a moral argument for family planning by appealing to both data and to theory: data about the efficacy of universal and comprehensive family planning education programs at reducing fertility and infant mortality, and theory about what is required for the establishment of autonomy. It reasons that universal educational programs are insufficient for the promotion of autonomy, and therefore argues on substantive autonomy grounds for comprehensive family planning programs in addition to universal education programs
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