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Does Christianity ask us to oppose family planning?

Date published: 1/30/2014

The Rev. Barry Lynn's Jan. 26 op-ed ["Your boss should not determine what birth control you may use," Viewpoints], regarding for-profit corporations opposing birth control in employer-provided health insurance plans on religious grounds, raises important questions on the meaning of religious liberty.

I hope, however, that the debate about religious liberty and differences among Christians about which contraceptives are acceptable does not mask the undeniable connection between the use of family planning and improved maternal and child health, as well as reductions in the number of abortions, as Mr. Lynn points out. These positive results should make Christians cheer.

Throughout my 50-year career in public health, beginning as a Mennonite volunteer in Africa and continuing with USAID and the World Bank, I have observed that mothers, families and communities benefit when couples are able to plan the spacing of their children and the size of their families.

Where family planning is being used by the greatest number of women, abortion rates are lower than in areas where only a small proportion of women have access to family planning methods. A 2012 study by Washington University in St. Louis revealed that providing contraception at no cost substantially reduced unplanned pregnancies and cut abortion rates by 62 to 78 percent from the U.S. national average.

This is why Christian Connections for International Health, the network of individuals and organizations working in global health that I lead, promotes family planning services in some of the poorest areas of the world. While debate about mandatory coverage for contraception may not conclude any time soon, I hope the discussion will focus more on healthy mothers and children and a reduction in abortions. These are outcomes that should unite Christians, not divide us.

Ray Martin


The writer is executive director, Christian Connections for International Health.