Christian Aid today welcomed the Government's approach to family planning in developing countries announced today by International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell.
It said the commitment to fund the provision of wider information and education in poorer countries to enable women to make effective choices about when they have children was particularly important.
'We know from our experience that in practice it is not just a matter of women having access to family planning,' said Christian Aid policy director Christine Allen. 'It is also about addressing the wider social and family pressures that can reduce a woman's ability to choose when to have children.
'That this initiative includes a commitment to education and information shows a more holistic response that takes on board cultures, attitudes and values rather than a solely mechanistic approach.
'As a faith based organisation we know that family planning is a sensitive issue, but empowering women to plan their children is an important means of valuing and protecting human life.
'As the government today acknowledges, it will lead to fewer deaths in both child bearing women and children in infancy.
'Adequate child spacing and smaller overall family size enables families to invest more in each child in terms of nutrition, education and other resources, as well as increasing women's productivity as contributors to household wealth, and improving the family's resilience and ability to respond to changing circumstances and opportunities.'
At a family summit in London hosted by the UK's Department for International Development (Dfid) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that UK spending on family planning in the developing world would double from the existing aid budget to £180m a year.
With a woman dying in pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes, 99 per cent of them in the developing world, the aim is to save the lives of 120 million women by 2020.
Earlier, International development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told the summit: 'The health and rights of girls and women are front and centre of Britain's aid programme. Being able to plan the size of her family is a fundamental right that we believe all women should have'.
Crucially, the UK programme will support governments, civil society organisations and religious groups in tackling social barriers to family planning with education, counselling, information campaigns and the creation of safeguards against coercion.
Ms Allen said the initiative recognised that ensuring modern contraceptive methods are available did not mean that uptake will naturally follow.
'A focus only on the provision of contraceptives and advice will fail if it does not recognise the role of men, extended family members, traditional leaders, and faith leaders in influencing decisions around family planning,' she said. 'Women's empowerment has to be supported and enabled by the wider community.
'This initiative recognises the importance of not only providing contraception, but also of increasing knowledge and awareness, helping to build empowering communities which all support the goal of saving lives.'