Christians Should Support Family Planning Programs, Evangelical Group Urges

Family planning strengthens families, enhances the health of women and children, and reduces abortions, The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good (NEP) argues in a new document. The liberal evangelical group urges fellow evangelicals to support programs that provide family planning services for the poor both in the United States and abroad.

The document, called "A Call to Christian Common Ground on Family Planning, and Maternal, and Children's Health," (available here in .pdf) was announced Monday at a press conference (available here on YouTube) in Washington, D.C.

The reason for the document, Richard Cizik, president of NEP, explained, is "we believe in a new kind of engagement," "we believe the Church has not been as actively associated with this issue and with the concern ... as it should be," and "we believe strongly in a compassion agenda."

The NEP document defines family planning as "the freely and mutually chosen use of a variety of contraceptive methods to prevent or postpone pregnancy," but does not, like some family planning advocates, include abortion.

Indeed, the document argues that the association that Christians ascribe between family planning and abortion hinders support for non-abortion family planning services.

"The association and 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," the document states.

The document affirms the common Christian teaching that sexual intercourse was intended for a man and woman bound in marriage, but also recognizes that people do engage in sex outside of the marriage covenant.

The document acknowledges that not all Christians believe that contraception is morally acceptable. It does not delve into a theological defense of contraception, but only notes that the crafters of the document are among the 89 percent of Americans that are not opposed to contraceptive use.

In areas of the world that do not have adequate health care, the document states, pregnancy and childbirth can pose significant risk to women.

"Christians should support rather than oppose efforts to make family planning services available to women in every part of the world," the document says.

The document also argues that family planning services will reduce the number of abortions. In the United States, 95 percent of unintended pregnancies occur because of the lack of, or improper use of, contraception, and 40 percent of those pregnancies end in abortion. Plus, contraception is credited with preventing 112 million abortions worldwide each year, according to the document.

Recently, one of the most controversial policies regarding federal family planning programs is the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate requiring employers to cover contraception, sterilization and some abortifacient drugs in their health insurance coverage. HHS has been sued by many Christian organizations, arguing that it violates their First Amendment religious conscience protections. The NEP document does not address this controversy.

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