World Health & Population
Advocating for international family planning while avoiding miscommunications with politically and religiously conservative policy makers and the public requires care and clarity with language. We find that terms such as “international family planning” are well received when the meaning is clearly explained, such as “enabling couples to determine the number and timing of pregnancies, including the voluntary use of methods for preventing pregnancy – not including abortion – harmonious with their beliefs and values”. Family planning also helps reduce abortions – a powerful message for conservative policy makers and the public.
We concur with Dyer et al. (2016) that the messenger is important; we find that many of the most effective advocates are religious leaders and faith-based health providers from the Global South. They know and validate the importance of family planning for improving family health and reducing abortions in their communities.
“Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy” is positive language for policy makers, especially when describing the health impact for women and children. Universal access to contraceptive services is emerging as vital for family health and also to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (UN 2015). Language on international family planning will evolve, and clarity of meaning will be foundational for effective advocacy.
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