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.
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.