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Removing Taboos: Sexual Reproductive Health in Slums

The Huffington Post | 1-18-2014

There are currently 220 million women worldwide who want but don't have access to effective methods of contraception and family planning services. Reproductive health is important at both the family level and the national level: by reducing health care costs, infant mortality, adolescent pregnancies and unsafe abortions, families can invest in the children they choose to have, and the nation's population growth rate slows. Access to family planning resources is especially crucial in cities, where the effects of rapid urbanization in addition to population growth present additional challenges.

São Paulo's public health network operates over 400 health centers that make reproductive health information and support available to the city's more than 2 million women of childbearing age. São Paulo's extensive reproductive health services stem from Brazil's legal recognition of family planning as a right for all women since the mid-1990s. The government has invested in programs like the National Family Planning Policy, which promotes the distribution of free condoms and strengthens educational campaigns that target adolescents. Additionally, eight different contraceptive methods are currently offered for free through Brazil's Single Health System. And most importantly, local health agents are on hand to provide free information at health centers and home visits so that people can learn more about their family planning options.

In Mexico City, civil society organizations and the city government are strengthening access to family planning from different angles. Urban Community Program of the Mexican Foundation for Family Planning (MEXFAM) is a nonprofit that operates in marginalized urban areas where trained community workers conduct outreach and provide information, primary care, and referrals to good quality services for basic and reproductive health. Medical offices have also been established in target areas so that referred patients have access to professional consultation. In addition to services provided by groups like MEXFAM, the city government's regulatory framework has also made a significant impact on family planning. For instance, Mexico City's legislative assembly approved a reform law that decriminalizes abortion before the twelfth week of gestation. Since the reform, the Federal District has seen a rise in private organizations that support contraceptive treatment and the legal interruption of pregnancies, as well as a halt in reported deaths caused by illegal abortions.

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