The world’s first birth control law on its 50th anniversary

The world’s first law on birth control effectiveness, introduced in Paraguay in 1971, has passed a half-century milestone, and Amnesty International is calling on the country to rethink its now-outdated approach to contraception.

At least 1,000 girls aged 14 or younger had become mothers in the South American country during the period from 2011 to 2020, according to a new report by Amnesty International, which put the number as high as 2,500 in 2016.

Some 17,000 girls between 15 and 19 who have given birth in recent years were also less than 15 years old when they gave birth, and many of them were under the age of 16, Amnesty said.

“The contraceptive rate in Paraguay among young people is quite low, and we are currently tracking somewhere around an average age of 15, so 70 percent of young women are using contraception but they’re using methods that are less effective than condoms,” Carmen Lucio Sosa, who authored the study, told Fox News Latino.

The new report, which focused on women between the ages of 15 and 29 in 2015, supports a move in recent years to discuss the importance of contraception for young women. Last year, the world’s first law on contraception effectiveness was passed in Paraguay by an overwhelming margin of 402 to 22.

Through Monday, 93.6 percent of Paraguayans were backing the gender equality law, which includes a clause stating that the government must promote contraception and spacing.

Lucio Sosa said that Paraguay’s stance is dangerously out of date because the global youth pregnancy problem is a global one and while the country lacks so far the data on gender-based abortion rates, in recent years, the number of teenage mothers in the country has fallen dramatically.

Figures that Amnesty compiled are based on the national census between 2015 and 2016.

The report found that while the national contraception rate among women was about 39 percent in 2015, it is currently only 30 percent and that not all contraceptive methods are equally effective.

Lucio Sosa said that a number of Paraguayans support the new law but that the country’s current position on contraception is unacceptable.

“What this law says is that the law has to change,” she said. “It has to change for population stability. It’s very urgent. It will be able to be discussed next year in the Assembly.”

Lucio Sosa stressed that the law does not mean encouraging abortion, which is illegal.

The laws and Amnesty International’s report is part of an increasing international debate on birth control effectiveness that has seen governments across the world re-consider their sexual and reproductive health policies.

French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to legalize birth control for unmarried couples in 2015, while in 2017, Turkey, Kenya and Tunisia all reaffirmed their commitments to abolish compulsory use of IUDs or implants for women seeking to control their fertility.

Lucio Sosa said she believes that Paraguay’s legislative shift in recent years could be linked to demographic changes that are contributing to a global increase in the number of young pregnant women.

“The current situation is linked to rising maternal mortality,” she said. “Young women are forced to give birth. One of the challenges that Paraguay faces is that we are facing a population crisis and the situation has gone extremely negative. We have millions of children between 15 and 19 who are no longer in school, and we have young women who are victims of social exclusion who are forced to give birth because they don’t have the ability to plan the future.”

Lucio Sosa said that a range of options are available to Paraguayans, including using condoms and regular use of contraceptives.

“We have a variety of ways, but we are not providing the contraception that works well,” she said. “We need to reconsider it and make it easy for young women to use contraception.”

Lucio Sosa said the need for contraception is especially crucial because Paraguay’s population is growing rapidly and the country is one of the most underdeveloped in Latin America.

“The most worrying thing for Paraguay is that with its high infant mortality rates, 80 percent of children born in Paraguay are stillborn and 17 percent die in the first year of life, so we see that over half of these children are affected by deaths,” she said.

“Our population is growing at 6 percent and that means that we will have four million people, and that means in 2050, we will have 30 percent of our population under the age of 15. We will have some 15 to 20 percent of our population very young. That is why people consider it urgent that we change our contraceptive use.”

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