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.