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Family Planning Can Improve Maternal And Child Health, Survival

Describing a maternal health program that promotes family planning in the rural village of Bweremana in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Michael Gerson writes in his Washington Post column that “[t]he very words ‘family planning’ light up the limbic centers of American politics.” But “in places such as Bweremana, family planning is undeniably pro-life,” Gerson says, noting that “[w]hen contraceptive prevalence is low, about 70 percent of all births involve serious risk. When prevalence is high, the figure is 35 percent.”

“Yet the role of contraception in development has become controversial — and both ideological extremes seem complicit in this polarization. Some liberal advocates of family planning believe that it is inseparable from abortion rights — while some conservative opponents of family planning believe exactly the same thing, leading them to distrust the entire enterprise,” Gerson states. He continues, “Contraceptives do not solve every problem. But women in Bweremana want access to voluntary family planning for the same reasons as women elsewhere: to avoid high-risk pregnancies, to deliver healthy children and to better care for the children they have. And this is a pro-life cause” (8/29).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.