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Voluntary, Human Rights-Based Family Planning: A Conceptual Framework

New Article in Studies in Family Planning by Karen Hardee, Jan Kumar, Karen Newman, Lynn Bakamjian, Shannon Harris, Mariela Rodríguez, and Win Brown

NEW YORK (21 March 2014) — Leaders from diverse organizations in the family planning field published a conceptual framework encouraging voluntary family planning programs to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights.

The framework is featured in the latest issue of Studies in Family Planning, a journal published by the Population Council

At the London Summit, world leaders committed to deliver family planning information and services to an additional 120 million women and girls worldwide by 2020. As the global health community pursues this goal, there is a duty to recognize and protect human rights as new programs are designed and implemented.

The framework offers a practical approach to operationalizing human rights in the development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of voluntary family planning programs, while also establishing quality measures of accountability.  

The authors note that defining a human-rights-based approach should:

  • Carefully analyze and consider existing inequities in family planning and reproductive health programs, and in the laws and policies that govern these programs
  • Ensure that policies and programs are anchored in a system of rights by integrating core principles such as accountability, empowerment, equitable service delivery, and non-discrimination
  • Focus on accessibility, acceptability, and quality when defining service standards
  • Empower all individuals—especially the most marginalized populations—to play a central role in the development of policies and hold stakeholders accountable for demonstrating meaningful change

Family planning contributes to numerous positive outcomes for individuals and societies. Over time, these outcomes have provided three rationales for investment in family planning: individual empowerment, improved health and well-being of mothers and children, and a country's ability to plan and manage development.

Programs that are grounded in human rights will help women and adolescent girls access the information and services they need, when they need them. A renewed global commitment to provide support for family planning provides an opportunity to transform family planning programs and reach those most vulnerable and in need of these life-changing services.

Access the full article at:

The framework was developed by The Futures Group and EngenderHealth, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Studies in Family Planning (SFP) is a quarterly journal concerned with all aspects of reproductive health, fertility regulation, and family planning programs, and their relation to health and development in both developing and developed countries. SFP is published quarterly by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Population Council.

The Population Council conducts research and delivers solutions to improve the lives around the world. Big ideas supported by evidence: It's our model for global change.

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