In the News

Majority of Catholic women use contraception

Tuesday, February 7, 2012
SANDRA LILLEY
NBC Latino

The numbers might surprise you. Though the Catholic Church officially bans birth control, 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women in this country use it, according to a recent study by the Guttmacher Institute.

The latest government study, titled National Survey of Family Growth, found that 89 percent of Catholic women who are not trying to have children have used birth control, as well as 90 percent of mainline Protestants and 91 percent of evangelicals. 

So the question is: Should a Catholic-run hospital or university be required by law to offer their women employees contraception, as mandated by the new health care law?

The Obama administration says yes.  ”This is important for millions of women around the country,” says David Axelrod, President Obama’s top political advisor. The non-partisan, independent Institute of Medicine recommended that American women receive 8 free preventive services to ensure American women’s health as part of the new Affordable Care Act.  One of the free preventive services recommended was access to contraception.

So under the new health care legislation, employers have to provide contraceptive coverage.  The administration provided an exemption to churches themselves so they do not have to violate their religious principles, especially if their employees are of their own faith.  

Critics of the new mandate say just exempting churches themselves is not enough.  Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio recently introduced a bill to allow religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals to opt out of providing coverage for any procedures they find “immoral,” such as contraception.  

Senator Rubio said “the government can’t force religious organizations to abandon the fundamental tenets of their faith because the government says so,” says the Florida senator.

Rubio’s bill was swiftly criticized by the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “We know that Latinas are overwhelmingly in support of contraceptive coverage and that Latina/o voters are willing to disagree with church positions on reproductive health issues,” said Jessica González-Rojas, the organization’s executive director. 

Some religious universities have already filed suit. One of the attorneys, Kyle Duncan from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, says he is confident the schools will not have to abide by the mandate, and said contraception is available through federally funded organizations such as Planned Parenthood.  

President Obama’s Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, says the new mandate is fair.  ”By carving out an exemption for religious organizations based on policies already in place,” says Secretary Sebelius, “we are working to strike the right balance between respecting religious beliefs and increasing women’s access to critical preventive health services.”  

Senior Obama Adviser David Axelrod did say the administration is willing to work with Catholic universities and hospitals, to try to find a way for them to include coverage for contraception without abridging “anyone’s religious freedom.”