In a blog post this week, Melinda Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, observed a development in the discussion surrounding women’s health care that troubled her: the conflation of the issue of abortion with the necessity of providing assistance in basic family planning. The philanthropist reflected on her recent travels abroad, and though she was encouraged by the increasing international “passion” for making sure women and girls have access to family health care and resources, she worries that wrapping abortion into the equation will “slow down progress for tens of millions of women.”
“When I was in Canada, an issue came up that worries me. I sat with Prime Minister Harper for media interviews in Toronto, and while most of the conversation had to do with the impact of Canada’s commitment to RMNCH [Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health], every journalist also focused on Canada’s policy on abortion,” Gates wrote.
“Around the world there is a deep, broad and powerful consensus: We should provide all women the information and tools to time and space their pregnancies in a safe and healthy way that works for them. This approach is simple, it works and it saves lives,” she continued. “The question of abortion should be dealt with separately. But in the United States and around the world the emotional and personal debate about abortion is threatening to get in the way of the lifesaving consensus regarding basic family planning.”
Gates mentioned that she has chosen not to engage the media on the subject of abortion, and the Gates Foundation does not fund abortions.
“We have made such great progress for women on prenatal care, on providing the contraceptives that they want, and on encouraging proper care and nutrition for newborns, and we need to keep moving forward,” she concluded. “The only way to do that is to be clear, focused and committed.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, headquartered in Seattle, Wash., has funded more than $30 billion in grants since its inception in 1997.