Updating our views on reproductive rights

Religion plays a huge role in our view of reproduction and human rights.  This is a huge deal for many people, and one that has inspired a ton of debate over the years.

Human reproduction can never be treated simply as an objective technical subject. No religion and no ethical system has ever been undifferent to the issues involved in reproduction. The recent expansion of the needs for and the means of fertility regulation has inevitably raised a new most of fundamental moral and ethical concerns.

Moral and ethical issues are never static. Some issues fade away while others continue to evolve. When the family planning movement started through volunteer non-governmental efforts, the ethical debate revolved around the principle itself. It was a question of whether mankind “should’ attempt to plan or alter its fertility in contradiction to nature or “God’s Will’.

Much of this debate is history now. It has become widely recognised and affirmed that humans, as rational beings, should be able to plan their own fertility, as indeed they plan other aspects of their life. Two areas related to this principle, however, remain unresolved. One is the stand of the Roman Catholic Church, where it is upheld that the outcome of sexual intercourse should be left to God’s will and that the only acceptable means of fertility regulation is abstinence, which may be adjusted to the fertile period of a woman’s reproductive cycle. The other area is abortion, which continues to be an emotionally charged topic. Still debated is the right to life of the fetus versus the right of the woman to have control over her body and to refuse to carry to term a pregnancy she does not want.

After the issue of “should’ began to fade away and family planning became a subject for international concern, the ethical debate moved to question the “why’. Concern and suspicion focused on whether efforts to reduce births were being imposed in place of efforts to accelerate socioeconomic development or, worse, whether these efforts might be “genocide’ in disguise, aiming to eliminate or keep down members of certain ethnic groups, countries, religions or the world’s poor. Again, this debate has in time lost much of its heat. But concern is still legitimately expressed when the family planning effort or assistance is not a part of a total welfare and development package, or when family planning services run ahead of or are given preferential treatment over other basic health care services.

~Fathalla, M.F. “The ethics of family planning.” World Health (1984)

I do believe that religion needs to be aware of the fact that not everybody can afford to have more children, nor can this world support an ever growing population – which would occur out of control should people never use birth control.  I believe the rise against birth control is rooted in a shameful feeling towards sexuality.