Contraceptives and Catholics

Contraceptives and Catholics

A Story by Knight in Armor
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Why the Catholic Church should reconsider their stance on contraceptives

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The Catholic Church recently became involved in a major lawsuit against the Obama administration regarding a new law that will require employee insurance plans, including those provided by Catholic organizations, to provide contraceptives to employees. The Church objects to this because of a previous policy against contraceptives reestablished in 1968 by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical letter “Humanae Vitae”, despite the majority of the members of the papal commission organized regarding oral contraceptives voting for the Church to allow birth control pills. As Electra Draper of The Denver Post reported in her article “Catholic Church defends birth-control stance amid strong opposition”, Pope Paul VI predicted that four things would happen if birth control was accepted, which are, “Morality would be generally lower; women would be less respected… human bodies would be viewed mechanistically… and governments would impose population control on their people” (Draper, 1.) In fact, many of the issues Pope Paul VI raises as points of contention underscore the need for birth control. The Catholic Church’s policy regarding contraceptives should be updated because it can lead to economic and familial stress, lack of contraceptive use can contribute to higher abortion rates, and it is misogynistic.

            The Church’s stance against birth control leads to familial and economic stress in that it causes families to have children that they neither want nor can afford. This is most evident in developing countries where contraceptives are not yet widely available. As Diana Hull noted in her article, “Overpopulated and impoverished nations: Can and

should the West intervene and if so how? A Comment on Weld 2012”, published online in Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics, “Much can be learned from Weld’s descriptions of escalating poverty, cruelty and loss of life, caused by… Catholic groups, engaged in a power play that rejects appropriate solutions” (Hull, 59.) Hull goes on to explain that she believes that religious groups should not be allowed a voice regarding controlling overpopulation in third world nations. She continues her argument with, “Opposition to making modern contraceptives available is puzzling when no requirement or pressure to use them is present, but when their provision simply gives families, and particularly women, a choice” (Hull, 59.) Hull accurately states that the Catholic Church’s resistance to allowing increased availability of contraceptives to women in impoverished nations proves both futile and a mere power struggle. Permitting the option of birth control to economically disadvantaged families, particularly in third world nations, allows for greater economic stability.

Similarly, in the United States, unwanted pregnancies, while still an economic burden, present an even more challenging familial strain. These unwanted pregnancies result in three out of ten women having an abortion by age 45 (Draper, 1.) The Church’s view on contraceptives contradicts the Church’s own teachings because can lead to increased abortions. As Draper notes in her article “Catholic Church defends birth-control stance amid strong opposition”, “Planned Parenthood proponents believe improvements in contraception and education have been responsible for two decades of decline in the numbers of abortions” (Draper, 1.) For instance, the abortion rate of teen girls in the United States has finally dropped to the same level of other developed countries due to better contraceptive knowledge and increased usage. As Laura Basset stated in her article “Access To Free Birth Control Causes Abortion Rate To Drop Dramatically: Study”, published in The Huffington Post, “… the abortion rates among all participants ranged from 4.4 to 7.5 per 1,000 women over the two-year period, substantially lower than the national rate of 19.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2008” (Basset, 1.) Quite simply, as Basset points out, allowing women access to birth control drastically reduces the number of induced abortions that occur. If the Church were to alter their stance on contraceptives, they would help to decrease the rate of abortion in the United States.

            Furthermore, the Church’s policy regarding contraceptives is misogynistic and degrading to women. It forces a woman to be unable to freely act upon her sexuality. However, Pope Paul VI claimed otherwise in his letter “Humanae Vitae” when he claimed, “… man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and… reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires…” (Paul, 1.) Pope Paul VI believed that permitting use of birth control for women would cause men to become so used to sex without risk of pregnancy that men would begin to forget that they must love their wives. Pope Paul VI goes on to say that men will, “no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection” (Paul, 1.) Pope Paul VI believed that allowing birth control would cause men to no longer value their lovers.

            Despite this, many impoverished nations that do not consider women as equal partners to men have the worst birth control stances. As Hull noted in her piece “Overpopulated and impoverished nations: Can and should the West intervene and if so how? A Comment on Weld 2012”, “… selecting family size is less likely to take place where women are oppressed… [Few] will have any influence on the number of children they bear” (Hull, 59.) Hull then stated, “Under these circumstances, the suffering of women is of little interest to those who hold power…” (Hull, 59.) This subjugation of women, while far more prevalent in poorer nations, still presents a problem in the United States. As McCafferty said, “The fundamental choice of whether or when to have children should be the woman's…” (Draper, 1.) McCafferty believes that only women should be allowed to choose when to have children because it helps them in other aspects of their lives. She then goes on to say, “… women have been able to participate in society and the economy more fully and on an equal status with men since development of modern forms of contraception," (Draper, 1.) The Catholic Church’s stance against contraceptives, while it is meant to help protect women from less loving relationships, does not allow women the same benefits as men, and therefore the Church should update its policy.

            Most importantly, the very mandate that the Church so adamantly fights against is meant to help equalize the amounts that men and women pay for health insurance. Women already pay more for health insurance, as Robert Pear notes in his article “Gender Gap Persists in Cost of Health Insurance” in The New York Times, with the fact that “… nonsmoking women often pay more than male smokers of the same age for the same coverage” (Pear, 1.) These price differences do not include maternity care or birth control, as of, “… the extra charge for maternity coverage is $270 a month…” (Pear, 1.) Obama’s mandate will help to reduce the price differences by law, and the inclusion of birth control will also help to reduce how much more women must pay for health insurance. The Catholic Church, though it is trying to protect women, is trying to prevent a law that would drastically decrease the differences between men and women in health care, particularly birth control.

If the Church updates their stance on contraceptives, they will help lead to decreased misogyny through the world and more specifically in health care in the United States through a potentially decreased need for abortions and better familial and economic situations every where. Decreasing the problem of unwanted pregnancy for women will help people all around the world. Decreasing the number of abortions, the level of economic stress in third world nations, the level of familial stress around the world, and the amount of misogyny women experience will radically help everyone. Most importantly, the Church’s fight against birth control protects almost no one, as Rachel K. Jones and Joerg Dreweke proved in their study “Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use”, funded and published by the Guttmacher Institute. Jones and Dreweke found that, “Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same, 98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women” (Jones and Dreweke, 4.) The fact that even strongly Catholic women choose to use contraceptives shows how outdated the Catholic Church’s current policy on contraceptives is, and how much good the Church could do by reconsidering the issue of contraceptives. While the Catholic Church may be trying to protect women by banning birth control, they are hindering the lives of all women everywhere with their current policy.

 

Works Cited:

Basset, Laura. "Access To Free Birth Control Causes Abortion Rate To Drop

Dramatically: Study." Huffington Post. N.p., 5 Oct. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012.

<http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/05/study-free-birth-control-abortion-

rate_n_1942621.html>.

Draper, Electra. "Catholic Church defends birth-control stance amid strong

opposition." Denver Post. N.p., 20 May 2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

<http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_20664414>.

"ENCYCLICAL LETTER HUMANAE VITAE OF THE SUPREME PONTIFF PAUL

VI." Vatican. N.p., 1968. Web. 8 Dec. 2012.

<http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-

vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html>.

Hull, Diana. "Overpopulated and impoverished nations: Can and should the West

intervene and if so how? A Comment on Weld 2012." Inter-Research Science

Center. N.p., 26 Apr. 2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. <http://www.int-

res.com/articles/esep2012/12/e012p059.pdf>.

Jones, Rachel K., and Joerg Dreweke. "Countering Conventional Wisdom: New

Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use."Guttmacher Institute. N.p., Apr.

2011. Web. 25 Nov. 2012. <http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/Religion-and-

Contraceptive-Use.pdf>.

Pear, Robert. "Gender Gap Persists in Cost of Health Insurance." The New York Times.

N.p., 19 Mar. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012.

<http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/19/health/policy/women-still-pay-more-for-

health-insurance-data-shows.html>.

Talbot, Margaret. "Why is the Catholic Church Going to Court?." The New Yorker. N.p.,

31 May 2012. Web. 25 Nov. 2012.

<http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/05/birth-control-and-

the-catholic-Church.html>.

© 2013 Knight in Armor


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Added on February 24, 2013
Last Updated on February 24, 2013
Tags: Catholics, church, religion, contraceptives, birth control, Obama, Obamacare, lawsuit, sexism, misogyny

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Knight in Armor
Knight in Armor

Grand Rapids, MI



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