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What Do Religions Say About Birth Control and Family Planning?

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Updated June 21, 2014

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Roman Catholicism and Presbyterians
What Do Religions Say About Birth Control and Family Planning?

Catholicism

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The Roman Catholic Church forbids sex outside marriage, so its teachings about contraception should be understood within the context of a husband and wife. Catholicism is the only major faith in the United States that forbids the use of contraception. The Church teaches that sex must be both unitive and procreative, so its against all chemical and barrier methods of birth control and considers them morally unacceptable -- claiming artificial birth control methods impede the procreative aspect of sex, making contraception sinful.

Natural family planning such as periodic abstinence is the only contraceptive method sanctioned by the Church. The catechism of the Catholic Church claims sex has a twofold purpose: "the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life (2363)." Still, most Catholics disagree with the prohibition of birth control; in fact, surveys find that approximately 90% of sexually active Catholic women of childbearing age use a birth control method forbidden by the church.

The Presbyterian Church:

Presbyterianism fully promotes equal access to birth control options. In fact, the Presbyterian Church has been advocating for legislation that would require insurance companies to cover the costs of birth control, asserting that contraceptive services are part of basic health care and warned that unintended pregnancies can lead to higher rates of infant mortality and maternal morbidity, and threaten the economic viability of families. Presbyterians have been urging Congress and the president to include comprehensive family planning in any proposal for national health care.

Sources:

Blumenthal (2007). Overcoming Cultural Barriers in Contraceptive Care. Baylor College of Medicine.

Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (2006) Religious Views on Contraception. Call to Justice.

Thomas (2007) Family Life. The Light Planet.

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