By Jenny Eaton Dyer
Today, we celebrate International Women’s Day. To achieve parity and inclusivity for millions of women worldwide, the first step is contraception, which are not only lifesaving mechanisms in the developing world, but a key to flourishing.
For this International Women’s Day, we, as Christian leaders — pastors and activists, authors and artists — ask you to stand with the 220 million women who say they want life abundantly, with access to contraceptives.
The U.S. leads the world in funding for international family planning. (Since the Helms Amendment passed in 1973, none of this funding has supported providing abortions.) But last year, President Trump recommended zeroing out this funding in global health.
More than 220 million women living in developing nations say they lack access to contraceptives or resources to healthily time and space their pregnancies. The leading cause of death for girls in these nations, under the age of 15, is complications during pregnancy or childbirth. And the number one intervention to save their lives, and the lives of their newborns, is access to contraceptives.
In Ethiopia, more than 50 percent of girls are married by the age of 16. If they can wait to debut their first pregnancy until after age 20, not only are they five times more likely to survive their pregnancies, but they also can stay in school, earn their secondary school degree and consider college. Increased education means increased health and increased salaries over their life span.
For those young mothers who already have one child or more, if they can space those children at least three years apart, the infant is twice as likely to survive. And by having the choice to not have more children, a mother can go back to work, feed her children, keep them in schools and improve their life outcomes as well. The U.S. budget for foreign assistance is less than 1 percent of the entire federal budget.
Family planning is just a fraction of that penny to every tax dollar. Yet with that fraction, millions of lives of young girls, mothers, and children are saved. This year, the president did not recommend zeroing out family planning — and the faith community played a key role in that by raising their voices — but he did call for cutting funding in half from current levels.
More than 175 committed Christians leaders have lifted their voices to ask members of Congress to restore this funding to help women in developing nations have healthy timed and spaced pregnancies. Will you join them?
Jenny Eaton Dyer is the executive director of Hope Through Healing Hands in Nashville, where she directs the Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers and Children Worldwide. She is a lecturer at Vanderbilt University.
This article was originally published in the Washington Post Acts of Faith newsletter.