Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancies: My Conversation with Melinda Gates

Yesterday morning, I had the privilege of sitting down with Melinda Gates, Scott Hamilton, Jenny Eaton Dyer, and a room full of caring people to talk about Hope Through Healing Hands’ Faith-Based Coalition for Healthy Mothers & Children Worldwide.

Chatting with both Melinda and Scott is always such a pleasure—especially about such an important issue as this!


Maternal and child health is a huge problem and the numbers can seem horribly daunting:

  • The biggest killer of women between 15 and 19 in many developing countries is pregnancy and childbirth complications.
  • One in every 39 child-bearing women in sub-Saharan Africa dies in childbirth.
  • Up to one in four girls in Sub-Saharan Africa drops out of school because of an unintended pregnancy.

But the exciting thing is, we know the answer! Empowering women to plan and space their pregnancies, dramatically increases their survival, and that of their children by 50%.

Women in the developing world want the power to choose. Melinda talked of her experiences visiting with women all over the world, and hearing them ask for more information and more resources. They want to understand their own fertility and their natural options; they want access to contraceptives.

Letting women space their own pregnancies means they can stay in school longer. It means they can nourish and raise their babies. It means they can heal after childbirth and contribute to their families and their communities.

Empowered women tend to have fewer babies, because their children survive. Couples make difference decisions when they can count on their children living. And these women have a long term plan: their daughters are twice as likely to be educated if the mother was able to complete her own education.

Do you know what else goes down when women have the information they need to time and space their pregnancies? Abortion rates plummet. Dramatically.

Even in the face of cultural norms that push women to have as many babies as possible, these women see how much is at stake. They see vastly better lives for themselves, their families, and their communities.

By 2020, helping the 120 million women who want help planning their pregnancies will result in: Over 50 million fewer abortions ; Nearly 3 million fewer babies dying in their first year of life; and 200,000 fewer women and girls dying in pregnancy and childbirth.

Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies is a pro-life, pro-family message.


But this isn’t just a great theory. We closed yesterday with a few challenges, and I’d like to extend them to you as well.

  1. Go to and sign up for our newsletter. Keep in touch, and stay plugged in.
  2. Write your Congressmen. In Tennessee, we live in a state where we do have two moderate-pragmatic Republicans who want to, and do lead on global health issues. But in this political climate, knowing they have your support so that they can offer strong leadership on these issues is so helpful. Send them an email!
  3. Talk about this issue in your social groups, in church, with your friends. Where we’re born is not up to us; we could have been born into these statistics. Jena Lee Nardella of Blood:Water Mission is a partner with HTHH on this, and she put it so well yesterday. This must be personal.

If you want to read more about our conversation and the effort, check out:

The Tennessean article that ran yesterday, including video from the conversation.
The Christian Post covered our conversation, and got some great quotes from our faith partners at Brentwood Baptist Church and Blood:Water Mission
The Time article that Jenny Dyer and I wrote a few months ago.
HTHH’s Toolkit with more information and resources