Catholics and Contraceptives

Created by: Savannah Hisch

The Truth

Contraceptive use is not a new concept in our modern day world. Women are taught that abstinence is the best form of birth control; but this cannot always be the case. Abstinence is taught in many religious practices, particularly in the Roman Catholic religion. Aside from abstinence, any form of contraception is seen as betraying God’s will. What about the circumstances of rape? How can women in these modern times live by these old fashioned standards? Women should not have to base their use of contraceptives on the teaching of their religion; rather they should base it on their own personal need.

Religion in Nursing Care

As a nursing student, I am taught to be culturally aware of others and their healthcare needs, be they physical, mental, or spiritual. Religion plays a major role in nursing care, as it is one of the many factors that determine how a patient will be cared for. Nurses and other members of the interdisciplinary team have to be aware of these circumstances and must be respectful when emergency treatment is refused based on beliefs. This idea of cultural and religious respect has been prevalent in nursing care for decades. Nurses must act as advocates, informers, and counselors in order to completely fulfill their duties.
Below is a video created by the Guttmacher Institute in 2012, which depicts the many benefits of contraceptive use here in the United States. This video not only provides valid information on the uses of contraception, but it also provides statistical data on the relationship between contraception use and unplanned pregnancies.
Benefits of Contraceptive Use in the United States

Research

In an article titled “‘‘My Religion Picked My Birth Control’’: The Influence of Religion on Contraceptive Use,” written by Nicholas J. Hill, Mxolisi Siwatu, and Alexander K. Robinson, “The central aim of this research is to understand what method of contraception is preferred given an individual’s religious preference.” (Hill, Siwatu, and Robinson 2013). The research was transcribed using the scientific method. The results of the study are that “followers of the Catholic faith were more likely to use methods that required long-term planning as a means of avoiding pregnancy (e.g., birth control pills, hormonal injections, contraceptive rings, intrauterine devices, etc.) than Protestants.” (Hill, Siwatu, and Robinson 2013). By these results, it is obvious that due to the fact that Catholicism places such an emphasis on family planning, Catholic women are more likely to use contraceptives in order to avoid the shame of an unplanned pregnancy.

One book called “On the Pill: A Social History of Oral Contraceptives, 1950-1970,” written by Elizabeth Siegel Watkins, “evaluates commonly held assumptions about the impact of the pill on middle-class American society and explores the changing perceptions of the pill in the context of the 1950s and 1960s,” (Watkins, 2011). Watkins describes birth control, or the pill, as a means of opening the flood gates of sexual activity in the 1960s. She describes how this scientific achievement was put into an unflattering shade, as many people judged its use as one associated with promiscuous intentions. It is interesting to see how judgments, be they social, religious or cultural, were created about birth control, and how they are still reflected in today’s society, especially in today’s Catholic Church.

With all of this analysis, it is easy to see that contraceptive use can only provide benefits for people, so it is important to share this message with those who do not believe.

What is the Point?

With these numerous health benefits, it is a strange that the Catholic Church does not rethink their belief about birth control. As said before, it will take time to persuade the church to adjust its beliefs. We must ease them through the process and give them the proper information needed to make the decision for change. It won’t be easy and it may take a long time, but it is not impossible or too far out of reach.

Getting the Message Out There!

In conclusion, contraceptive use is beneficial to women, not only for its purpose of preventing pregnancy, but also for its benefits of protecting against deadly diseases that are spread through sexual contact. The Catholic Church does not accept the use of contraception, but over the years it has made exceptions (i.e. oral contraceptives for religious sisters who have the potential to be sexually assaulted in dangerous areas of the world). The shift to acceptance of contraceptives is a slow one for the Catholic Church, but it is one with an achievable goal. As we move on and progress, more methods of contraception may be developed and there may be safer means of family planning aside from abstinence. It is a must to keep pushing for acceptance and to continue to research and show that contraceptives are for the better good and are not intended for unjust purposes.

About Savannah

Savannah Hisch is a University of Cincinnati College of Nursing student in her second year of school. She is a practicing Catholic, as well as a supporter of the use of contraceptives and their many benefits.

References

"Catholic Women and Contraceptives." Contemporary Sexuality 04 2012: 9. ProQuest. Web.3 April 2015.

Clague, Julie. “Catholics and Contraceptives: Uncovering Complexity.” Berkley Center: for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs (2014). Web. 25 March 2015.

Cromwell, Helen. “Religion in Nursing Practice.” The American Journal of Nursing 49.12 (1949): 768-770. Web. 24 March 2015.

Descombes, H. M. “Jehovah’s Witnesses and Blood Transfusions.” Journal of Medical Ethics 27.5 (2001): 355. PMC. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.

Hill, Nicholas J., and Siwatu, Mxolisi, and Robinson, Alexander K. “‘‘My Religion Picked My Birth Control’’: The Influence of Religion on Contraceptive Use.” Springer Science+Business Media New York (2013). Web. 26 March 2015.

Watkins, Elizabeth S. On the Pill. Baltimore: JHU Press, 2011. Web. 26 March 2015.