WASHINGTON, DC – In a panel discussion on Capitol Hill yesterday, maternal and child health experts explained why family planning is critical to improving child survival rates, and why the current perception that Christians do not support family planning is inaccurate.
While most Christians support and even practice family planning, stories in the media of Christians objecting to the use of contraception on religious grounds have contributed to this perception.
The panel, organized by Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) (www.ccih.org), was moderated by Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
“I visited Eastern Congo, where complications from childbirth are as dangerous as militia in the countryside,” said Gerson. “Some women I talked to had had 13 children – sometimes only half of them survive – and each birth raises the risk of hemorrhage and infection. Those odds increase when births come early in life, late in life or in rapid succession. Family planning can be controversial here in Washington, but it should not be. In places like the one I visited, I regard family planning as a pro-life cause, and it should not divide us.”
Objections to family planning on religious grounds have been based on misunderstandings of how methods work.
“In the past we had an erroneous understanding of how certain family planning methods, like emergency contraception and IUDs, work. We now know they prevent conception and are not abortifacients,” said Dr. Anne Peterson, MD, MPH, public health program director, Ponce School of Medicine & Health Sciences. “We also know that family planning saves lives and reduces abortion rates. There should now be no hindrance to people of faith supporting use of family planning to improve the health of women and children across the globe.”
Peterson presented data on the reduction in child deaths when births are spaced between three to five years apart. Abortion rates also decrease when family planning use increases, including in post-Soviet countries where abortions decreased dramatically when modern contraception use increased.
The panel session was part of CCIH’s ongoing efforts to advocate for U.S. support of family planning services in developing nations for improved maternal and child health and to raise awareness of the link between family planning and child survival.
Panelists included Susan Otchere, MSc, RN, project director, Mobilizing for Maternal and Neonatal Health through Birth Spacing and Advocacy (MOMENT), World Vision US; Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, chief of party, Management Sciences for Health, Nigeria; Dr. Tonny Tumwesigye, executive director, Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau; Dr. Anne Peterson, public health program director, Ponce School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Puerto Rico; and Rev. Richard Cizik, president, The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good and author of ”A Call to Christian Common Ground on Family Planning, and Maternal, and Children’s Health.”
Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) (www.ccih.org) is a 501(c)(3) membership association founded in 1987 to promote global health and wholeness from a Christian perspective. The CCIH network includes more than 200 organizations (approximately 170 Christian members and 40 secular affiliates) based both in the U.S. and abroad.
Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist (left), and Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, chief of party, Management Sciences for Health, Nigeria, participate in family planning panel discussion on Capitol Hill yesterday. Advocates say practice supported by majority of evangelical Christians.