(CNSNews.com) – For the estimated 62 million women of reproductive age in the United States, “virtually all of them will use a contraceptive method other than natural family planning at some point in their lives,” regardless of their religious beliefs, states the Guttmacher Institute in a new report, Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use.
The report showed that, “among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning” and that “this figure is virtually the same, 98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women.”
“This research suggests that the perception that strongly held religious beliefs and contraceptive use are antithetical is wrong – in fact, the two may be highly compatible,” reads the Guttmacher report. “Contraceptive use by Catholics and Evangelicals, including those who frequently attend religious services, is the widespread norm, not the exception.”
The data showed that 83 percent of women of reproductive age (15 to 44) have a religious affiliation: 48 percent Protestant; 25 percent Catholic; and 11 percent identify with another religion, such as Buddhism, Islam and Judaism.
Among that 83 percent of women of reproductive age, 33 percent go to church at least once a week, according to the report, and 20 percent go monthly and 26 percent less than once a month. Another 20 percent do not attend church at all.
Sexual experience among never-married women of all religious affiliations is fairly common, according to the survey, with 69 percent (ages 15 to 44) saying they have engaged in sexual activity at some point in their lives.
In addition, for all women who are sexually active – married and unmarried – the data show that 69 percent use some form of artificial birth control, such as sterilization (33 percent), the Pill (31 percent), IUD (5 percent) and condom (14 percent).
The report noted that, “While Catholic and Evangelical women are slightly more likely than Mainline Protestants to be married; patterns of contraceptive use do not differ by religious affiliation among married women.”
Only 3 percent of married Catholic women practice natural family planning, while 72 percent use artificial means to contracept, such as the pill or IUD, while 40 percent rely on sterilization.
According to the Catholic Catechism, section 2370, any action that proposes “as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible” is “intrinsically evil.”
Further, “the regulation of births represents one of the aspects of responsible fatherhood and motherhood,” reads section 2399 of the Catechism. “Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means (for example, direct sterilization or contraception.”
The Guttmacher Institute report was based on a study of the extent to which women of various religious affiliations practice contraception and preferred methods. “Data for this report come from the 2006-2008 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) which gathered information on contraceptive use from a nationally representative sample of women,” stated the document.
In its introduction to the report, the Guttmacher Institute criticized in particular the Catholic Church and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for opposing artificial means of birth control as apparent “preventive and public health care.”
“[C]ontraception continues to be perceived as controversial among some policymakers and is opposed by the Catholic hierarchy and some other socially conservative organizations,” said the Guttmacher Institute report. “[T]he USCCB and other socially conservative groups have long opposed publicly funded family planning programs for young and low-income women and continue to advocate for special exemptions so broad as to allow entire institutions, including insurance plans and hospital networks, to refuse to provide contraceptive services and supplies.”