Melinda Gates
Melinda Gates has big plans. (Photo by World Economic Forum)

Can Melinda Gates do for family planning what Al Gore did for climate change? Gates has decided to make birth control her signature issue. “My goal is to get this back on the global agenda,” she tells Newsweek. As co-chair of the richest foundation in the world, she might actually be able to do it.

The contraceptive cause could certainly use a high-profile advocate: 215 million women [PDF] around the world want to avoid pregnancy but aren’t currently using modern birth control. As Gates explained last month during a TEDxChange presentation on family planning, “This is a life-and-death crisis. Every year, 100,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant die in childbirth. About 600,000 women who don’t want to be pregnant give birth to a baby who dies in her first month of life. I know everybody wants to save these mothers and babies.”