Faith group supports family planning

While many conservative evangelicals oppose government funds going to pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood, a centrist evangelical network says cutting such anti-pregnancy programs would result in more and not less abortions.

By Bob Allen

The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a faith-based coalition formed in 2010 by former National Association of Evangelicals vice president Richard Cizik, released a 15-page document Oct. 16 making a moral case for family planning.

A Call to Common Ground on Family Planning, Maternal and Children's Health says researchers estimate that publicly funded family planning helped to prevent 973,000 unintended pregnancies in the United States.

“Family planning strengthens families and creates more stable, healthy communities worldwide by allowing people to plan to have the personally appropriate number of children at the appropriate time, when they have developed the spiritual emotional, practical and financial resources needed as well as the support system required to successfully raise children,” Jennifer Crumpton, author of FemmeEvangelical and vice president for strategic partnerships at the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy, said at a Washington Press event introducing the report.

Contraception is credited with preventing an estimated 112 million abortions worldwide each year, the report says. In the U.S. alone, 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.

In recent years, the report says, much opposition to pregnancy prevention programs has come “from a misguided concern that family planning is the equivalent of abortion.”

“Budget cuts to family planning, even when intended to signal opposition to abortion, could very well actually increase the numbers of abortions,” Crumpton said. “Providing people with access to contraception is indispensible for preventing unintended pregnancy and thus reducing abortion.”

The report does not mention President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which requires employers to provide contraceptive coverage in health insurance for women, but its release coincides with a number of lawsuits challenging the mandate on religious grounds.

Many disputes center on the Roman Catholic Church’s official teaching that artificial birth control is immoral, but some involve evangelical Christian organizations that object to being forced to pay for certain birth control pills that some researchers contend are capable of inducing early term abortions.

Louisiana Baptist Convention-affiliated Louisiana College filed a lawsuit against Obamacare in February, and President Joe Aguillard vowed to shut down the school before obeying the contraceptive mandate.

East Texas Baptist University and Houston Baptist University, schools affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, sued the federal government Oct. 9 claiming the contraceptive mandate violates their religious freedom.

This week the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention signed on to a legal brief challenging a Health and Human Services rule that exempts churches from the contraceptive mandate, but not faith-based organizations that hire people from other religions and serve the general public instead of church members only.

Without getting into specifics, the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good document calls it “imperative” that Christians seek common ground on such issues.

“We must give appropriate attention to family planning without entangling it in the often partisan, politically motivated abortion controversy,” the document says.

The statement affirms “that contraceptive methods offer legitimate and morally acceptable means to exert greater control over the number and timing of births and will enhance the overall health of women and children.”

Cizik co-founded the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good in partnership with Steven Martin, a documentary filmmaker and Methodist minister in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and David Gushee, a professor at McAfee School of Theology and ABPnews columnist.

Martin continues as the partnership’s executive director. Gushee resigned as the group’s board chairman earlier this year, saying church and work responsibilities prevented him from accomplishing needed fundraising for the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.