Contraception use is the norm among religious women

Not surprising, but putting it out there for the folks who think that there’s actually some sort of legitimate debate about contraception in the the United States — it’s really only fringe anti-choicers who oppose birth control. And yet those fringe anti-choicers seem to be calling the shots right now when it comes to Planned Parenthood funding? Anyway: Religious women use birth control. Shocking!

Contraceptive use by Catholics and Evangelicals—including those who attend religious services most frequently—is the norm, according to a new Guttmacher report. This finding confirms that policies making contraceptives more affordable and easier to use reflect the needs and desires of the vast majority of U.S. women and their partners, regardless of their religious beliefs.

“In real-life America, contraceptive use and strong religious beliefs are highly compatible,” says Rachel K. Jones, the report’s lead author. “Most sexually active women who do not want to become pregnant practice contraception, and most use highly effective methods like sterilization, the pill, or the IUD. This is true for Evangelicals and Mainline Protestants, and it is true for Catholics, despite the Catholic hierarchy’s strenuous opposition to contraception.”

Women of all sorts of belief systems can agree on one thing: It is not awesome to have a baby when you really don’t want a baby. Also:

* 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 among Catholic women (98%).
* Among sexually active women of all denominations who do not want to become pregnant, 69% are using a highly effective method (i.e., sterilization, the pill or another hormonal method, or the IUD).
* Some 68% of Catholic women use a highly effective method, compared with 73% of Mainline Protestants and 74% of Evangelicals.
* Only 2% of Catholic women rely on natural family planning; this is true even among Catholic women who attend church once a month or more.
* More than four in 10 Evangelicals rely on male or female sterilization, a figure that is higher than among the other religious groups.

Yay, we all love birth control!

About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Gender, Reproductive Rights and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Contraception use is the norm among religious women

  1. Clarissa says:

    The hypocrisy of the people who use birth control but want to deny it to others is overwhelming.

  2. Jingly Lotus says:

    Heck yeah we do!

    It’s a woman’s Goddess given right to choose which eggs she grows to term: the life you were given was benevolently bestowed upon you because your mother agreed to carry you to term, painfully birth you and then keep your helpless self clothed and fed all with a smile on her sleep-deprived face.

    The contract of motherhood is not to be taken lightly and there is no dishonor in choosing if and when to indulge the primal urge to reproduce. A woman who is not free to make her own reproductive choices is simply not free.

  3. Nahida says:

    I’ve never met a religious woman who didn’t want me to use birth control or didn’t use it herself. Actually, I can’t even think of any AT ALL (not even in the media) who doesn’t want this. I can, however, think of men.

    Why do people ask male politicians how they feel about things like abortion anyway? Who the fuck cares? If you don’t identify as a woman (cis or trans) I don’t care how you feel about contraceptives that don’t apply to you. Talk about your own. I do not value your opinion when it comes to mine.

  4. Rita says:

    huh. I’ve never seen these statistics before and they are interesting.

    Makes me think… I’m from a very religious community and although I would guess most of my married friends use some kind of contraceptive (as do I – IUDs are great!), it’s not an insignificant percentage who use Natural Family Planning or Fertility Awareness Method. Women of my acquaintance who do use contraceptives often do so with great ambivalence and skepticism. It’s definitely not a given or answered question for them(/us).

    I didn’t realize how unusual these attitudes are across the wider population… just one more way my community is even more unconventional than I knew… and one more reason I’m happy to also have access to feminist community.

  5. Politicalguineapig says:

    This reminds me of my roommate- very catholic, very religious, and used birth control. Wasn’t for the intended purpose, though: it was to control periods and acne.

  6. Shoshie says:

    I’m a religious Jewish woman and I’ve hung out with a bunch of other religious Jewish women over the years. I use birth control, they use birth control. We’re all in support of easy access to birth control, even the few women I know who choose not to use birth control.

  7. Lis says:

    I’m behind most of the women I went to a Catholic high school with in terms of having children. Most of them are married, with at least one child, but a whole lot of them are using birth control to space their kids out even if they intend to have large families. Even to them, the rapid-fire family model they see doesn’t look that much fun. It’s not THEM who want to deny access to birth control–it’s the priests who only hold on to the kids long enough to baptize them.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Huh? Condoms aren’t a highly-effective method??

  9. Ruchama says:

    Nahida:
    I’ve never met a religious woman who didn’t want me to use birth control or didn’t use it herself. Actually, I can’t even think of any AT ALL (not even in the media) who doesn’t want this.

    Michelle Duggar is the only one I can think of off the top of my head.

  10. Samantha says:

    People who use birth control and pretend they don’t make me so mad!

  11. YES! Thank you. The stereotype that religious women are anti-contraception is antiquated and absurd. I come from a long line of Spanish Catholics. My grandmother was one of a dozen children and she will be the first to tell any young woman to use birth control. After two kids, she was all “aaaand SCENE” when it came to reproducing. I went to a Catholic high school and was lectured on the importance of protection and the benefits and downsides of different methods of birth control. I find that most people with a firm grasp on reality, even in mainstream religious institutions, understand that no matter what the Pope or your priest or whoever says, responsibility and protection are more important than lofty impractical deals.

  12. ks says:

    I was raised Catholic and I come from a huge extended family (Irish Catholic and my grandma did not use birth control, even the stuff that I know for a fact she had access to). But even so, out of my 40 or so first cousins, I have exactly one who (or whose wife) doesn’t use some form of birth control that isn’t NFP. And that one cousin has 4 kids and is currently pregnant with #5. Everybody else has capped it at two or three. Hell, even my very, very Catholic aunts and my mom have to have been on something, given the fact that nobody had more than three kids except the previously mentioned cousin’s parents, who had four.

    But I do remember that the priest in our very small parish actively encouraged us teenagers to use condoms, in mass during the homily even. My aunts were outraged and wrote to the bishop about it, because how dare Fr. Harry (who was awesome, btw) encourage *their* kids to be careful about that dirty, dirty thing that we were already all doing. Pre-marital sex should apparently always lead to unexpected and unwanted pregnancy and a shotgun marriage in which everybody involved is miserable.

  13. annalouise says:

    I think this kind of study is so incredibly important in helping challenge the very small, very unrepresentative group of men (and it’s almost all men) who make all the noise and get all the attention and pretend that they are the actual authority on what religious people believe. Even within the Catholic church, which has a designated hierarchy, lay people believe differently from what the cardinals believe and when it comes to matter of women’s actual lives, the Cardinals and the Pope aren’t, in practice, the ultimate authority on what’s the right thing to do wrt birth control.

    However, it’s disappointing to see people on this thread who are not interpreting it this way, but are accusing religious women who use birth control to be hypocrites who secretly pop ortho and decry the evils of birth control.

    It sucks because it perpetuates a silencing of religious women, who because of sexism, in their religious tradition *and* in the culture at large, don’t get the same attention as socially conservative religious men.

    I’m a Lesbian Christian who could fit under the “evangelical” label depending on what definitions people are using. And, for all that I’m so excited to read the original article, I really had to grit my teeth reading the comments here, expecting a sneering attitude towards religious women which is so common in mainstream feminist sites. Feministe has come a long way and is a lot better than some sites in terms of not being so constantly scornful of religious women, but it’s a problem in mainstream feminism where religious women are assumed to be stupid, socially conservative and anti-feminist and it’s really a shame.

  14. Folks reading this thread may find Gail Collins’s editorial in the NY Times about the attacks on contraception under the guise of attacks on abortion (and my post on it) interesting.

  15. RenKiss says:

    I feel this study kind of ignores the fact that with some religious people is they may not have negative views towards contraception. I’ve met plenty of of religious women who did use birth control. To them, it didn’t conflict with their beliefs. Even in my fundamentalist upbringing, I met a few women who used some type of contraception.

  16. I don’t consider myself all that religious, but I did the NFP thing for a while. Worked great, had kids when we wanted them. I did it because I didn’t like the side effects of birth control when I used it. Now I very happily have a tubal ligation and love the freedom of not having to worry about getting any of that stuff right. If I went to church, they’d call that one a no-no, but after three kids and two C-sections, I’m not going through all that again and wouldn’t expect any other woman to refuse the convenience of deciding how she controls her fertility.

  17. Safiya Outlines says:

    I’m a Muslim women and a happy contraceptive user and I’m not alone. I also find that using contraceptives doesn’t go against my religious beliefs at all.

  18. Natalia says:

    Russian Orthodox Christian. Always used birth control. Up until recently, that is – when I got oddly lax about it (or not so oddly – let’s face it, I wanted to get pregnant, but somehow didn’t admit it), and me and my man, who was also being all irresponsible and stuff (i.e., wanted me to get pregnant) were rewarded with the bebeh I am currently gestating. Fully plan on continuing to use birth control once bebeh is born. :)

    Be cool, cover your tool. Etc.

  19. Athenia says:

    I think the problem is that *teens* need contraception education and religious folks absolutely do not want teens having that information before they get married.

    It’s still all about the pre-marital sex.

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