The advent of reversible long-acting contraceptives–IUDs, injectables and implants–has provided women throughout the world with valuable new fertility regulation options. These highly effective methods, together with male and female sterilization, have proven to be enormously popular and are now used by the majority of women and men who are currently contracepting worldwide.

Despite their remarkable popularity, long-acting contraceptives have engendered considerable controversy. Political, ethical, and safety questions have emerged, stemming from the ways in which these contraceptives have been developed and used over the course of this century. At the heart of the concern is the issue of reproductive rights and freedom.

This paper reviews the history of the development of long-acting contraceptives, including the prospect of new methods that will likely emerge from ongoing research and development. It also examines the history, in the United States and in developing countries, of the use and abuse of long-acting methods, including sterilization, in the context of eugenics and population control policies. It then describes a new paradigm of reproductive health and rights that has emerged from the International Conference on Population Development in Cairo, and which offers an enlightened approach to future policies and programs.

In light of the wide variety of ways in which long-acting contraceptives have been provided, the paper examines the rights and responsibilities of governments, family planning providers, and individuals. An ethical framework for the use of long-acting methods is discussed, and public policies for the future are proposed.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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