Religion and Repro Rights Are Not Enemies

With the election of the most recent pope, religion has taken center stage in the media as well as the political sphere. It’s especially been referenced in line with my issue of women’s reproductive rights. From faith leaders opposing Committee Chairman Ryan’s reproductive healthcare cuts to Texas clergy members taking part in public prayers to increase access to contraception, it seems that what’s often framed as an “us vs. them” issue isn’t actually as divisive as we like to think.

Are Religion and Reproductive Rights Compatible?

This is a bit of a loaded question because, even among members of the same denomination, everyone has their own personal interpretation of their religious beliefs and the texts these beliefs are founded upon. However, because there are so many misconceptions about religion being fundamentally contradictory to women’s reproductive rights, it’s worth noting how religious people from multiple denominations view this issue.

Misconception #1: Only women with loose morals use contraception and have abortions.

FALSE. According to the Guttmacher Institute, more than seven in 10 (a.k.a the majority) of U.S. women who have abortions claim a religious affiliation of some sort. This breaks down to about 37% protestants, 28% Catholics and 7% other. About 25% of women who have abortions actively practice their religion, and attend religious services at least once per month. Not to mention, the majority of major religions in the U.S. institutionally support the use of contraception as well.

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Misconception #2: All religious people believe that religiously-affiliated employers should not have to offer contraception coverage to employees.

FALSE. Not even close. In fact, a majority of religious Americans deny that contraceptive coverage is an infringement on religious liberty. The New York Times reported that 57 percent of Catholic Americans believe their religious organizations should offer contraceptive coverage. A majority of white mainline Protestant, religious black Americans, and Catholic Protestant Hispanic Americans also agree that health care plans should cover contraception, regardless of the employer’s religious beliefs.

In a country where approximately 84 percent of citizens identify with a religious belief, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that part of the support for the women’s reproductive rights movement comes from people of faith as well. Women’s reproductive rights and religious freedom are not black-and-white issues, and it’s the recognition of its complexity that will help us start a proactive dialogue about making them even more compatible.

3 thoughts on “Religion and Repro Rights Are Not Enemies

  1. You make such a great point! A lot of debates about access to contraception seem to center around religious belief, but I think you did a great job of showing that the two are not mutually exclusive. Especially in our society, as norms and beliefs are changing, it is silly to believe that all religious people are against contraceptive use, or that all contraceptive users are without faith.
    I think that the way to clear this up is to do exactly what you’ve done here, by trying to educate. The debates will be much more accurate if everyone took this into consideration.

  2. “The New York Times reported that 57 percent of Catholic Americans believe their religious organizations should offer contraceptive coverage.”

    It is unclear to me how this is at all relevant. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems to me that these people just aren’t faithful Catholics. They either don’t know what their church teaches, or they just don’t care.

    The reality of the situation is that the Conference of Bishops is the undisputed authority on Church Teaching in America. And this group is quite clear: they think contraception is always, in all cases, morally evil.

    • Although I do see it as relevant, I totally get what you mean about it seeming contradictory to what the church teaches. That’s one of the problems I’ve come across when debating religious people. A lot of them will claim to subscribe to a specific faith, but then pick and choose their beliefs despite the doctrines and teachings of the church. But maybe this is where the relevance comes into play because the American public clearly isn’t as strictly religious as it has been in the past, and as a democracy, we should accommodate the changing needs and values of the public as a whole.

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