Religious women use contraception too

A new study from Guttmacher reports that the majority of religious women also use contraception.

“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.”

This is not surprisingly to those of use in the reproductive rights community, who understand how crucial family planning is to many people’s lives, religious or not. It is extremely to highlight in an era when some conservatives are using religiously-fueled ideology to try and limit women’s access to contraception and family planning.

Amanda Marcotte has been really vocal in pointing this out lately–the battle isn’t even about abortion anymore, its about contraception, and more broadly, sex.

A few key findings from the report:

  • 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).
  • 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.

Download the report here.

Join the Conversation

  • nazza

    I’ve known many Catholic women who don’t think in lockstep with the Pope. This regards both abortion rights and contraception. There are conservative Catholics and liberal Catholics, as it true with almost every denomination that comes to mind. And it’s certainly true with Quakers. Evangelical Quakers are often extremely conservative, while liberal Quakers like me are just what the label connotes.

    • Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

      Same here Nazza. The women’s church group that my Mom is a member of, almost all of them including Mom voted for President Obama. This is the opposite of how our church wants us to vote. My mom and a few aunts and uncles made the choice of controlling family size, something that a religious aunt has been appalled by. But in reality not everybody wants to raise 6 kids or can afford raising a large amount of children.

  • Matt

    At least in catholicism (speaking as an agnostic who grew up in a catholic household), the extent members adhere to their faith can be rather arbitrary. Both my sister and my mom have used birth control. On the other hand, I’ve never seen either of them protesting the exclusion of women from the priesthood of the church. Maybe it’s about conflict avoidance or something.

    • Jessica Stephens

      I totally agree — churches seem to decide which issues they care about arbitrarily. I used to go to a very strict Bible college (the rules were along the lines of those at Bob Jones, but it is a different denomination), and that inconsistency among church members is one of the main reasons I felt like I had to get out of the church lady lifestyle. I agree this is somewhat about avoiding conflict, but it might also be about avoiding thinking. Why worry about figuring out what my world view is when I have a preacher who’ll do that for me?

  • SamBarge

    In other news:

    Fire is hot
    Scissors are sharp

  • Grace

    It might be interesting to point out that contraception is totally fine in Islam. Married couples can determine how many children they do or do not want (with the stipulation that whatever happens ultimately comes from God) and we can have abortions if the pregnancy is dangerous for the mother or something like that. Even though so many people think that Muslim women are oppressed, we’re actually treated like real people and not breeding machines.

  • Alicia Guzman-Riley

    They hate when women have sex! Unless it is to pro create. So stupid.

  • unequivocal

    It is extremely to highlight in an era when some conservatives are using religiously-fueled ideology to try and limit women’s access to contraception and family planning.

    You lost me here. Not because I disagree with you (I think), but because I can’t figure out what you’re trying to say. It is extremely to highlight?

  • Jennifer

    I suspect the result would be very different if you looked at Catholic women who attend church EVERY Sunday (not once a month) and on HDOO (Holy Days of Obligation). Look at Catholics with kids in Catholic school, and the numbers will be even more skewed. At the parochial school I attended 15 to 20 years ago, it was really obvious who was using natural family planning. Of course, maybe things have changed in the last 20 years.

    I’m nominally Catholic (though certainly not in the rhythm method camp), and in order to get married, you must participate in a marriage prep weekend. One of the things you learn is about natural family planning. A couple who used that method spoke to us. They told us how it sometimes worked – and sometimes didn’t, to the tune of four kids, I think.

    I’m curious about the “rules” for conservative Protestant religions regarding birth control.