Common ground?

July 12, 1991

One of the ironies in the vast disagreements between the Roman Catholic Church and family planning groups is that both seek to uphold human dignity, human rights and the worth of each individual. For the church, however, contraception remains a sin, and some statements from the church even claim that the pill and forms of birth control other than periodic abstinence have not liberated women, but rather enslaved them.

To mark World Population Day yesterday, the president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation released a letter he sent to Pope John Paul II asking for an open dialogue between the church and family planners. This may strike some as a far-fetched public relations gimmick, but in fact the two sides may well have a great deal of value to discuss.

In his letter, Dr. Fred Sai asserted that "voluntary family planning is the best protection against abortion." Indeed, now that Romanian women are no longer forced to give birth to children they cannot care for, they have an option -- and unfortunately, only one option -- abortion. Contraceptives are not yet available.

The church and family planning groups have deep disagreements. But there may be room for common ground. Granted, each side discusses values like "individual worth" in different contexts. But is it really impossible that in their understandings of human dignity there would not even be room for further discussion?

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