Laws and Policies Affecting Fertility: A decade of change

In the last decade over 50 countries have strengthened laws or policies relating to fertility.  Approximately 40 developing countries have issued explicit statements on population policy emphasizing the relationship to national development.  In several countries constitutional amendments have been passed reflecting a more positive attitude toward family planning.  High-level units, e.g. small technical units, interministerial councils and coordinating councils have been established to formulate policies or coordinate programs.  Other actions relating to fertility include:  increased resources for family planning programs, both in the public and in the private sector; elimination of restrictions on family planning information, services and supplies; special benefits for family planning acceptors or couples with small families, and measures to improve the status of women, which indirectly affects childbearing patterns.  The recognition that policies, laws and programs to influence fertility are an integral part of efforts to promote social and economic development was reaffirmed at the International Conference on Population in Mexico City in 1984.  147 governments expressed their support for voluntary programs to help people control their fertility.  Governments cite at least 4 reasons for increased attention to policies affecting fertility and family planning.  Some of these are the desire to slow population growth to achieve national development objectives, concern for maternal and child health, support for the basic human right to determine family size, and equity in the provision of health services.  In addition to the strongest laws and policies to lower fertility in Asia, legal changes are occurring in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.  Family planning programs, laws on contraceptives and voluntary sterilization, compensation, incentives and disincentives, the legal status of women and fertility and policy-making and implementation are reviewed, as well as equal employment, education, political and civil rights and equality of women within marriage and the family.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,Center for Communication Programs,Population Information Program