This month I was delighted to work with UNFPA on the global release of this year’s State of the World Population Report: The Power of Choice.
I helped craft the message, advised on media materials and prepared the spokespeople for speeches and media interviews. The report is launched at events all over the world. This year, in addition to face-to-face trainings, we conducted a successful online training session attended by UNFPA leaders in Asia, Europe and Latin America.
The major finding of the report is that insuring women have free choice to decide if and when to bear children results in fewer but healthier births. A healthier, better educated population leads to greater prosperity and more potential for social advancement.
One obvious challenge was presented by sheer size of the report. How do you take an 80-page document and boil it down to a one-page message platform? I work backward by creating powerful advocacy statements about the action agenda recommended by the author and then crafted messages that create a logical foundation for that agenda.
A second challenge lies in the title of the report. “Choice” in a Western context can be a euphemism for abortion rights, but UNFPA’s mandate prevents abortion advocacy. So while the report advocates for women’s reproductive rights, it doesn’t include the right to chose. I train spokespeople to thread the needle to define choice more broadly. Through practicing tough questions, speakers acquire the arguments they need to frame the issues in a proper context.
Today, some developed countries are (or are trying to) reduce choice by curtailing access to legal abortion and contraceptive services in attempt to drive up their populations or control women. We see this happening in the U.S. with cuts to Planned Parenthood and Medicaid funding for family planning. As other countries in the world are expanding access, the U.S. is heading backwards, and women and families here will suffer if this isn’t stopped.