Why Family Planning Is Consistent with Christian Values
A few years ago the Board of Directors of Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) made the decision to advocate for access to family planning services in low- and middle-income nations to protect the health of women and children. We knew family planning was a sensitive issue, risking that this initiative could put our organization at odds with others in the Christian community whose partnership we value. But for those of us who have worked in public health and seen first-hand the tragic consequences of unintended and poorly timed pregnancies, the decision was clear. Even if one prefers to use the terminology of "child spacing," or "healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies," family planning enables couples to safely space the births of their children and limit their family size to the number they can feed, clothe and educate. How could it not be Christian? Evidence-based public health is consistent with Christian values.
We looked at the results of closely spaced births and unintended pregnancies. According to the World Health Organization, a child in a low- and middle-income nation has a higher chance of dying if he or she has siblings very close in age. Women are at risk as well. Unintended pregnancies often end in abortion, with 21.6 million women worldwide undergoing unsafe abortions in 2008. [i]With family planning, pregnancies can be timed when it is healthy for the woman and her children, and the incidence of abortion can be reduced as unintended pregnancies are prevented.
To express why it was clear to us that family planning is consistent with Christian values, CCIH released an infographic earlier this summer. It explains our definition of family planning, which is: Enabling couples to determine the number and timing of pregnancies, including the voluntary use of methods for preventing pregnancy – not including abortion – that are harmonious with their values and beliefs.
The infographic includes scripture from the Book of Proverbs and 1st Timothy supporting our beliefs that Christians value healthy families and education. We are confident these values are widely shared among Christians. A survey of our members showed widespread support for family planning. We hope this simple illustration of facts, scripture and values will help guide discussions on Christianity and family planning. Recent high profile news coverage in the United States has given the impression that Christians are against family planning, even though in reality, in most cases, it was opposition to a couple methods of contraception that were at issue. Unfortunately, there has not been as much coverage of the heartrending impact of a lack of access to family planning in low- and middle-income countries, and the millions of women who are not ready for a pregnancy, but lack access to family planning methods to safely space the births of their children[ii].
I encourage you to share the full infographic and help answer the question “Is family planning consistent with Christian values?” My experience, knowledge and theology lead me to emphatically assert that it is.