For the first time, the United Nations says access to contraception is a universal human right.
In its annual report released Wednesday, the UN Population Fund says family planning could dramatically improve the lives of women in poor countries and declared any legal, cultural or financial barriers to contraception an infringement of women's rights.
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"Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive," Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of the fund, wrote in a statement obtained by CBS News. "Women's increased labor-force participation boosts nations' economies."
The report is not binding and has no legal effect on national laws.
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It does suggest that increasing funding for family planning could save the world an estimated $11.3 billion each year in health bills for mothers and newborns in poor countries, The Associated Press reported.
"The aim should be to assist couples and individuals to achieve their reproductive goals and give them the full opportunity to exercise the right to have children by choice," Salon.com quoted the report as stating.
The UN doesn't count abortion among contraceptive or family planning measures.