Journal Article

Contraceptive autonomy: Conceptions and measurement of a novel family planning indicator

Since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, there has been increased attention to high‐quality and rights‐based family planning, but these concepts have been difficult to measure. Perhaps due to an intellectual history intertwined with population control, contemporary family planning programs and researchers often use (modern) method use as a primary marker of success, with indicators focusing narrowly on contraceptive use and fertility. This results in a fundamental misalignment between existing metrics and the stated family planning goals of promoting reproductive health and rights. This report describes the rationale for a novel family planning indicator called “contraceptive autonomy” and proposes a methodology for measuring this concept at the population level. Defining contraceptive autonomy as the factors necessary for a person to decide for themself what they want in relation to contraception and then to realize that decision, this indicator divides the contraceptive autonomy construct into subdomains of informed choice, full choice, and free choice. By acknowledging that autonomous nonuse is a positive outcome,aiming to maximize contraceptive autonomy rather than use could help shift incentives for family planning programs and reduce some common forms of contraceptive coercion, as our measurement approach is realigned with our focus on high‐quality rights‐based care.

Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.