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Family planning as a moral and religious imperative

Family planning as a moral and religious imperative

The Religious Institute has begun a campaign to obtain thousands of religious leaders’ endorsements of family planning and to make universal access available to all women.

The group is asking for clergy to endorse their new “Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Family Planning,” which is “a multifaith call for religious leaders to support family planning from a faith-based perspective.”


The Rev. Deborah Raffner, president of the Religious Institute, explains in the Huffington Post:

The Open Letter was developed at a Religious Institute colloquium held this spring. A dozen Christian (mainline, Evangelical and Roman Catholic), Jewish and Muslim theologians created the Open Letter in a day of dialog and discussion. They affirmed that, “in a just world, all people would have equal access to contraception. The denial of family planning services effectively translates into coercive childbearing is an insult to human dignity.” They called on hospitals and health services, regardless of religious affiliation, to provide or refer to contraceptive services, and reminded those who would oppose such services, that “no single faith can claim final moral authority in domestic or international discourse.” They urged religious leaders to “advocate for increased U.S. financial support for domestic and global family planning services.”

There is nothing new about religious leaders supporting family planning. The Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform Judaism) and the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion passed the first religious organization policies supporting it in 1929 and 1930, respectively. Today, at least 14 major denominations, including the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and the Seventh Day Adventist Church have policies supporting contraception.

As people of faith, we must resist those who would deny individuals the ability to make their own personal decisions about their families and reproductive lives; indeed we must resist the political attempts to make such decisions and such services controversial when they are not. As the Open Letter states, “contraception allows for a fulfilling sexual life while reducing maternal and infant mortality, unintended pregnancies, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases.” Surely as the wide range of endorsers of the Open Letter demonstrates, family planning is common ground.

The letter begins:

As religious leaders, we are committed to helping all people thrive spiritually, emotionally, and physically, which includes their sexual and reproductive health. Millions of people ground their moral commitment to family planning in their religious beliefs. Most faith traditions accept modern methods of contraception, and support it as a means of saving lives, improving reproductive and public health, enhancing sexuality, and encouraging intentional parenthood. Even within faith groups that limit or prohibit such services, the religious commitment to freedom of conscience allows couples to choose contraception to intentionally create their

families. While there are strong public health and human rights arguments for supporting domestic and international family planning programs, here we invite you to consider the religious foundations for affirming safe, affordable, accessible, and comprehensive family planning services.

Read the rest here.

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