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Catholic Women Using Oral Contraceptives

May 7, 2010

A half-century after the introduction of birth control in the United States, millions of women are still being preached to by the Roman Catholic hierarchy to abstain from using the pill.

Although the orders are still being made to this day, it is obvious that woman stopped listening long ago.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 98 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 have used some form of contraception and more than 44 million have used the pill.

Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, told the AFP news agency: “Catholics use the pill the same way everyone else does… Priests don’t even preach against it anymore.”

“There is no evidence that the teachings of the church influence Catholics in their decisions about the kind of contraception they actually use,” said previous Catholics for Choice president Frances Kissling, who stepped down in February 2007.

The lead author of a 2004 report on Catholics’ attitudes toward sexual behavior, Kissling said that fewer than five percent of Catholics in the US use birth control methods allowed by the Church.

Those methods include the rhythm method, — where couples abstain from sex depending on where the woman is in her menstrual cycle — abstinence, or breast-feeding for birth control.

Just a few short years after the pill became available in the US, the Vatican came close to letting loose its rules on birth control when a papal commission made up of bishops, theologians and lay people set up by Pope Paul VI recommended that the Church lift the ban on the use of the pill.

O’Brien thinks the stories of five married women on the panel touched the lives of the bishops. “The women spoke of the fear of sex, the fear of pregnancy, having one pregnancy after the other, maternal mortality, which was prevalent in northern societies because of the ban on contraception,” said O’Brien.

According to O’Brien, the stories changed the heartfelt feelings of the bishops and they voted to recommend that the Church drop the ban on artificial contraception, saying it wasn’t inherently evil and the pope’s earlier teachings were not foolproof.

But the pope wasn’t swayed and in 1968, he ignored the commission and stated the Church would stay on course with its original feelings on birth control.

Bill Mattison, a professor of theology at Catholic University in Washington, told AFP it’s not the pill that’s the problem. “What the Church has a problem with, is people who want to have sex and cut the sex off from fertility.” He said that the Church is trying to keep sex “dignified and life-giving here.”

Many Catholic women did try to abide by the Church’s teachings in their marriages. However, many women had more children than they wanted, and after a certain point they said, “Enough of this. This is ridiculous.”

Women realized that the “Catholic hierarchy of celibate men don’t know what they’re talking about when it came to birth control,” said Else, 79, a Catholic who was ordered to take the pill in 1967 by her doctor after having five children and one miscarriage.

“If I hadn’t gone on the pill, I’d probably have been having kids at 50, if I’d lived that long,” Else told AFP.

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