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Birth control and the church
Richard Cizik's op-ed on evangelicals and contraception-Family Planning: A Beam In our Own Eye?

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Date published: 2/24/2013

THE OBAMA administration's contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act, which requires most employers and insurers to cover birth control at no cost to women, has prompted complaints largely from Catholic and Evangelical lobbying offices.

I've spent more than 30 years working to protect religious freedom and the sanctity of human life, 28 of those years with the National Association of Evangelicals office for governmental affairs, and I don't usually disagree with my former colleagues. But this is one fight in which I clearly disagree, especially now that the administration has revised the rule and made adjustments to protect the rights of religious institutions.

The fight over contraception coverage is linked to the broader issue of funding what is called "family planning": the freely and mutually chosen use of a variety of contraceptive methods to prevent or postpone pregnancy. It does not include interventions that take place after pregnancy is established; in other words, it does not include abortion.

The confusion of family planning with abortion has caused intense religious opposition by Christians and others with the result that opposition has extended not just to abortion, but to family planning as a whole. This conceptually confused phenomenon has hindered funding and support of desperately needed family planning services.

Over the past two years, the U.S. House of Representatives has sought--unsuccessfully so far--to abolish all funding for Title X, the federal program that provides family planning services to low-income households. The House Appropriations Committee has also voted to cut funding for international family planning by 25 percent. Senate opposition to these cuts has produced a standoff, but the future is far from certain.

Moreover, a number of states have voted to defund Planned Parenthood--one of the nation's leading provid-ers of contraception to low-income and uninsured women--because some of its clinics also offer abortions.


Does this make sense? I think not. We owe it to ourselves, if we're interested in the facts, to examine the evidence. What should be "common ground" between Republicans and Democrats, religious and secular, pro-lifers and pro-choice activists, is instead a war over funding family planning programs that save lives and prevent abortion.

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Richard Cizik is president of New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.