The United Methodist Church supports the right for men and women worldwide to have the ability to choose when, or if, to have children. Affirming the right of women to access comprehensive health care services, including reproductive health, has always been a cornerstone of the UMC.
And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren.
Luke 1, NRSV
Access to family planning and reproductive health services prevents maternal and child deaths and enhances the delivery of healthy babies. Additionally, family planning and reproductive health prevents the spread of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, human papillomavirus (HPV) and gonorrhea.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, every year nearly 80,000,000 unintended pregnancies occur worldwide. More than half of these pregnancies end in abortion. Access to information, education and services on voluntary family planning and contraception is essential in reducing unintended pregnancies and rates of abortion. There is a significant unmet need for women and girls around the world for contraception. According to the World Health Organization, despite the increase in contraceptive prevalence, some 137,000,000 women still have an unmet need for contraception.
Voluntary family planning programs like those carried out by U.S. Agency for International Development are critical to improving health care, empowering women and protecting the global environment. Such programs enable individuals and couples to decide the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, free from violence, coercion and discrimination.
Teen mothers face twice the risk of dying from childbirth than do women in their twenties, and their children are more vulnerable to health risks as well. Every year, almost half of all new HIV infections and at least one-third of all new sexually transmitted infections occur to people younger than 25.