The right of couples and individuals to freely decide the number and spacing of their children and the right to information and education that allow them to do so is a basic guarantee of individual liberty. This right is denied in a number of ways. The societal mores stress early marriage and large families. In India the average age of marriage for women is 14.3 and the earlier they become mothers the higher their status in the community. In many cultures, family size and spacing is determined by the husband. In many cultures a cult of "machismo" dictates that a man's masculinity is measured by the number of children he has. Denial of education or of opportunities to work indirectly denies this right. Women who are educated or who work outside the home or farm are more likely to space children, and to care for them more effectively.
There is an estimated 500 million people who want to limit their family size, but who lack either the information, access or means to do so. In 1992 it was estimated that approximately half of the women in developing countries lacked access to birth control, and that one in four pregnancies were undesired. In 2001, Population Action International reported that 150 million women in poor countries who want contraception and do not have access to it.
Between 1996 and 1998, more than 90 bills that would diminish reproductive rights have been introduced in the USA, all but 13 of which have passed.
The right of a woman to control her own body and therefore her own fertility is foundation to the right to freedom. A woman should have all the knowledge and means available to make her choice and exercise her freedom to decide whether and when to have children. She also needs to know the consequences in terms of health, nutrition, shelter, education, and education and social opportunities for herself, her family and her society. The denial of this right endangers the woman. An estimated 500,000 women die each year due to complications associated with childbirth and millions survive with long-term damage to their health. It endangers the infant. Each day more than 42,000 infants die for lack of proper health care and nutrition, many because their parents cannot care for the children they have. The two most important determinants to a child's chance of survival are the length of interval between births of siblings and the educational level of the mother. It endangers the whole family. In cultures where 5 to 10 children is the norm providing physical care is difficult and providing adequate psychological care almost impossible for all of the children.