By Vincent Ujumadu
ANAMBRA State coordinator of family planning, Mrs Stella Ekweozor has accused the church of posing the greatest challenge towards achieving the goals of family planning in the country.
In an interview with Saturday Vanguard in Awka, Ekweozor said the resultant effect is that many women embark on unsafe abortion at the risk of their lives.
A nongovernmental organization, Marie Stopes Nigeria, recently observed that contraception and abortion contribute to high maternal mortality ratio of 451deaths per 100,000 live births, while unsafe abortion contributes over 30% of maternal deaths in Nigeria.
At a training programme for journalists, officials of Marie Stopes Nigeria argued that access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right and a key factor in reducing poverty, adding that having children should be by choice and not by chance.
The organization also observed that about 214million women in developing countries, who want to avoid pregnancy, are not using safe and effective family planning methods, for reasons ranging from lack of access to information or lack of support from their partners or communities.
Corroborating the position of Marie Stopes, the Anambra State family planning coordinator said the position of the church on the issue was very worrisome.
She said: “We have serious opposition from the church on family planning matters. Recently we went to a church forum and once we mentioned family planning, members of the church flared up.
“Because some denominations are against the artificial method of family planning, we are always careful with them. We have a scientific method of family planning which we will soon roll out in the state, but unfortunately, the church is bringing some people who do not have knowledge of health to teach the women Billings’ method which is a form of natural family planning method.
“However, we tell them that they cannot teach family planning methods with their limited knowledge. We try to prove to them that it requires health professionals to impart the knowledge, which can only be found in approved health centres.
“Surprisingly, they became hostile and queried why we should refer the women to health centres. To, them, the only thing we should teach women is the natural way of family planning.
“They were even antagonizing us for advocating artificial family planning methods and that is where we disagree with them.”
She said that although more women were embracing family planning through a sensitization programme mounted by her office, a large number of women were still involved in unsafe abortion.
Ekweozor added: “Nigerian women have no choice than to embrace various family planning methods because things are really hard in the country, which makes it necessary for couples to have the number of children they can cater for. “Anambra State is recording high rate of unsafe abortion because many families don’t want to have more children.
“We have found out that most of the women agree with their husbands to terminate unwanted pregnancies, which is why it is necessary that such unwanted pregnancies are avoided through various forms of safe family planning methods.”