Faith and Family Planning: DC Event Dispels Myths

Faith and Family Planning: DC Event Dispels Myths

 {Photo credit: Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH).}Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, chief of party of MSH Nigeria (right), and Michael Gerson, Washington Post columnist (left), participate in the family planning discussion in Washington, DC.Photo credit: Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH).

On December 3, Management Sciences for Health participated in an event organized by Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) on the importance of family planning for reducing maternal deaths and improving child survival. The informative Capitol Hill panel discussion (Where Do Christians Stand on Family Planning? Voices from the Global South) dispelled several misconceptions about Christian views on family planning and examined the under-reported role that many Christian organizations play in this sector. Panelists addressed two key myths.

Myth: Family planning equals abortion

Reverend Richard Cizik, the President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, said this myth is the most persistent and inaccurate. In fact, family planning encompasses a range of health interventions ranging from healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies, counseling and education, breastfeeding, and contraceptive use.

MSH's Country Representative of Nigeria Dr. Zipporah Kpamor discussed how important this is for places like Nigeria, where maternal and infant mortality is persistent due to high fertility rates and low contraceptive use combined with insufficient or nonexistent prenatal care and inadequate levels of institutional delivery by skilled birth attendants. By making informed decisions about how many children to have and how to space them apart, panelists shared how mothers were able to properly recoup between births, thus resulting in healthier moms and babies. 

Myth: Christians don’t support family planning

In reality, Christian organizations are working in places that struggle with high maternal and infant mortality rates to save the lives of mothers and children, and family planning is a key component of their strategy.

After clarifying what family planning is and is not, speakers shared their field experiences working with faith leaders. Susan Otchere of World Vision discussed her program built support for healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies in Kenya not only at the community level, but also with religious leaders who are key to creating a positive, supportive environment.

MSH Nigeria's Dr. Kpamor echoed this approach, saying “when local religious leaders accepted and promoted family planning, community members no longer feared accepting services.”

Dr. Tonny Tumwesigye, executive director, Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau and Dr. Anne Peterson, public health program director, Ponce School of Medicine & Health Sciences, Puerto Rico, also spoke on the panel.

Editor's note: MSH, a secular organization, partners globally with faith-based networks and organizations such as CCIH and with faith-based health service providers in countries throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America to improve maternal and child health through family planning.