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Catholic Women and Birth Control

February 22, 2012

Birth control has been front-page news the last few weeks, thanks to President Obama’s initial decision to require all organizations, including faith-based entities such as Catholic universities and hospitals, to provide contraception in their employee health care plans.  Most of the media coverage has painted this as a battle between the “out of touch” men who lead the Catholic Church, and women in general.  As a Catholic woman, I have been increasing annoyed with this assumption.

In making this argument, one statistic has been repeated over and over again:  that 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used birth control at some point in their lives (emphasis mine).  This fact has been used to argue that most Catholic women blatantly and callously ignore church teaching on this point. As a Catholic convert and mother of three, I am irritated by the implication that Catholic women have no respect for the Church’s position on this issue.  I have been a member of a large Dallas Catholic community since 1994, and I can tell you that most faithful Catholic women have great respect for all issues relating to life, including the issue of using birth control.

Whether or not you agree with the Catholic Church’s prohibition on artificial means of birth control, it is worth noting that there are deep moral issues raised by its use, and it is unfair to assume that Catholic women place no value on the Church’s teaching.  The underlying principles behind this teaching are well worth considering:

First, Christians (as well as many other faiths) believe that children are a gift from God, to be treasured and cherished.  The Bible clearly teaches that children are a heritage from the Lord, and “blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”  When we know someone plans to give us a gift, aren’t we usually eager to receive it? Many prominent and successful people in our society – including Oprah Winfrey and Tim Tebow – were born under difficult circumstances.  If their parents had used birth control, or gotten an abortion (as Mrs. Tebow was advised to do), they would not be alive today, and the world would be poorer for it.

Many Christians also believe that human life begins at conception.  Some forms of birth control, such as the IUD, are designed to prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.  Similar questions have arisen around the drug known as “Plan B.”  If you believe that human life is sacred from its earliest moments, then these are, in fact, serious moral issues.  All of us were once tiny embryos, the smallest beginning of the miracle of life.

The widespread use of contraception outside of marriage has also helped to weaken the traditional bond between sex, procreation, and marriage.  Today, more than half of all pregnancies in women under 30 occur outside of marriage.  In contrast, in the last century, almost a third of marriages occurred because the woman was pregnant.  Men and women were encouraged to assume the responsibilities of marriage to promote the wellbeing of their children.  Although there are many factors contributing to the increase in unwed mothers, the idea that sex should be available without consequences has surely contributed to the problem.

In living out our marriages and raising our families, Catholic women rely on the Church to give us the strength and wisdom we need. Just because people disagree with some aspect of church teaching, or sometimes fail to follow it, does not mean the teaching has no value.  It should be obvious to everyone that Catholics and other Christians are imperfect keepers of our faith. Most of us would freely admit that we fail on a daily or even an hourly basis.  We yell at our kids, repeat ugly gossip, speed on the highway and fail to help the needy.  But that’s why we go to church– to hear again the voice that calls us to lead better lives.  With the increasing complexity of technology and the myriad advances of science, moral issues are growing more and more complex as well.  We need voices such as that of the Catholic Church to keep calling us back to basic principles.  Even when we don’t always agree with them, or fail to live up to our own standards, we are still listening.

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3 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink
  2. Yolanda Seaman permalink

    The problem is not which religion or principles you adhere to but how those principles are imposed upon the rest of the public. If I am a Muslim or a Mormon should you have to submit to those principles in your daily life? As a nation of many religions it is best for religion to stay clear of government regulations for everyone.

  3. Yolanda, The Catholic church is not imposing their rules on anyone except Catholics. The Government is forcing Catholics to break they religious beliefs by including in the mandated wellness benefits counseling for females, from like age 12 up, that abortion is an option and called a method of birth control. Yea! Birth control by death.. killing..in addition to forcing us to fund something we totally do not believe in. Perhaps I misunderstood your statements. I hope my comments help you to see the problems the wellness mandate is for Catholics and anyone who does not believe in abortion.

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