Biblical Reflections on a Call to Action for Reproductive Health/Family Planning Christian Connections for International Health (CCIH) Conference 27th-29th May 2006 Dr. Gloria Ekpo (MD, MPH)
Outline • Definitions • Overview of RH/FP • Burden of Reproductive Health • Historical background on RH • Inter-faith perspectives on RH • Biblical Reflections on RH/FP • Challenges in delivery of RH/FP in FBOs • Call for Action for RH/FP • Recommendation and Conclusion
Objectives • Understand some of the basic concept and current issues on RH/FP • Review of Biblical evidence for and against RH/FP • Explore Actions to reinvigorate RH/FP especially in FBOs
Definition of Reproductive Health Reproductive Health: Defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity in all matters relating to the reproductive health system and to its functions and processes at all stages of life. (Spiritual well-being is implied Biblically) Source: WHO. Reproductive Health Strategy. 2004
Implications • People are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life; • Capability to reproduce; • Freedom to decide if, when, and how often to do so; • Right of men and women to be informed; • Right to have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice; • Right to appropriate health-care services that enable women to safely go through pregnancy and childbirth. Source: WHO. Reproductive Health Strategy. 2004
Definition of Family Planning • Family Planning: • Implies the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births through contraceptive methods and treatment of involuntary infertility. • Family Planning Methods • Natural and Artificial methods • Short-term and Long-term methods • Male and/or Female controlled methods Source: WHO. Reproductive Health Research. 1994
Overview of RH/FP Services Core Reproductive and Health Services: • Improving antenatal, peri-natal, post-partum and newborn care; • Providing high quality services for family planning including fertility services; • Eliminating unsafe abortion; • Combating STI, including HIV, RTI, Cervical Cancer and other gynecologic morbidity; • Promoting sexual health
Burden of Reproductive Health • Maternal deaths: 529,000 die yearly • Child mortality: 10.6 million • More than 120 million couples (in developing countries) have unmet need for safe and effective contraception • About 80 million women every year have unintended and unwanted pregnancy, some from contraceptive failure Source: WHO. Reproductive Health Strategy. 2004. World Health Report 2005
Historical Background on RH/FP • Before 1930 • Christian denomination united in firm rejection of contraceptives • 1930- Lambeth Conference, England • Departure from unanimous prohibition against contraception • Use of artificial contraception advocated when abstinence was deemed impracticable • After 1930 • 1961:Liberal policy on contraception declared by National Council of Churches; • Subject to mutual consent between couples Source: Kathleen O’Grady. Contraception and Religion. Encyclopedia of women and world religion. 1999
Inter-faith Perspectives on RH/FP • No uniform position on contraception within each of the religious traditions. Roman Catholic Church • 1930: Casi Connubii- Pope Pius XI. • 1968: Humanae vitae – Pope Paul VI • Sanctions Abstinence and Natural Family Planning Methods • Orthodox Churches • Allows married couples to make their own decisions on contraception • Condemns abortion, infanticide and permanent contraception. Source: Kathleen O’Grady. Contraception and Religion. Encyclopedia of women and world religion. 1999
Inter-faith Perspectives on RH/FP 2 • Jewish Religion • Accepts abstinence as the only permissible birth control method except where health reasons apply. • Islamic Faith • Variation on attitudes to contraception • Traditionally permits the use of birth control on health grounds • Unanimous rejection of sterilization and abortion • Hinduism • Encourages prolific procreation within marriage • No prohibition against birth control Source: Kathleen O’Grady. Contraception and Religion. Encyclopedia of women and world religion. 1999
Inter-faith Perspectives on RH/FP 3 • Common Concerns by major religions on birth control • Fear that contraceptive use will encourage immorality and illicit sex • Liberal contraceptive policies may encourage model of living that would destroy family and family values • Feminist • View prohibition on birth control as a means to control female sexuality and independence
Reflections from the Bible on RH/FP • Fertility • “Be Fruitful, Multiply and Replenish” Gen. 1: 27-28 • Rachael, Leah and Mandrakes: Gen 30:14-16 • Children as Heritage: Psalms 127:3 • Contraception • Onan’s experience: Gen 38:6-10 • “Subdue the earth …. And have Dominion over….”Gen 1:27 • Infertility: • Rachael- Gen 30:1; • Hannah-1 Sam 1: 1-8 • Elizabeth- Luke 1:36 • Abortion and Infanticide: Exodus1:16, 21:22, 23:26
Reflections from the Bible on RH/FP 2 • Abuse of Reproductive Health • Rape- Dinah and Tamar- Gen 34:1-2; 2 Sam 13:1-20 • Wife Inheritance: Gen 38:6-10 • Adultery: Exodus 20:14; John 8:10-11 • Homosexuality: Gen. 19:5; Romans 1:23-29
Challenges in the delivery of RH/FP services • Barriers: • Gender Inequalities-Nutrition, healthcare, education • Violence against women-physical, sexual, emotional • Access to health services • Lack of youth friendly reproductive health services • Poverty • Cultural barriers • Religious barriers
Call for Action: Role of FBO in Reinvigorating RH/FP • Encourage dialogue and communication; • Active involvement of men in reproductive health issues; • Involvement of youths RH issues • Provide information for informed choice on RH matters; • Reduction/elimination of man-made barriers to access to reproductive healthcare;
Call for Action for RH/FP…2 • Advocacy Action on reproductive health matters; • Operational Research on RH services delivery; • “Throwing the First Stone” concept versus “No condemnation ” strategy. John 8:10-11 • Respect for dignity for the human life; • Education and improvement of status of the woman.
Recommendation • Engage the Church on regular dialogue on RH; • Encourage Family-centered reproductive healthcare services; • Engage and address youth RH needs • Advocate for holistic and comprehensive RH care; • Involve women in decision-making process in RH.
Conclusion Holistic approach to RH/FP within Biblical context is feasible.