Melinda Gates leads contraception battle
By Joanna Moorhead
Melinda Gates takes aim at the Catholic Church in her fight to improve access to contraception worldwide.
BILLIONAIRE Melinda Gates has thrown down the gauntlet to the Vatican with a vow to dedicate the rest of her life to improving access to contraception around the globe.
Mrs Gates – who with her husband, Bill, the founder of Microsoft, is one of the world’s leading philanthropic figures in development issues – predicted that women in Africa and Asia would soon be ”voting with their feet”, as women in the West had done, and would ignore the church’s ban on artificial birth control.
Mrs Gates, a Catholic, was a speaker at the London Summit on Family Planning organised by her foundation in conjunction with the British government and the United Nations Population Fund.
She said she had been inundated with messages of support from Catholic women, including nuns.
”A church is made up of its members, and one of the things this campaign might do is help women speak out,” she said.
Mrs Gates said that in the West the bishops said one thing but ordinary Catholics did another. ”In my country 82 per cent of Catholics say contraception is morally acceptable. So let the women in Africa decide. The choice is up to them.”
She admitted she had agonised over whether to speak out in defiance of the church hierarchy.
”As a Catholic I believe in this religion … But I also have to think about how we keep women alive.
”I believe in not letting women die, I believe in not letting babies die, and to me that’s more important than arguing about what method of contraception [is right].”
Being a woman and a mother were at the heart of her decision to focus on family planning, said Mrs Gates, who has three children, aged 16, 13 and 10.
”It would have been nice to stay as a private citizen but part of the reason why I’m so public is that it does take a woman to speak out about these issues.
”Why have women not been at the heart of the global health agenda? It’s because we’ve not had enough women speaking out. We need to give a voice to women all over the planet. This will be my life’s work.”
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