Catholic Women on Birth Control

You’ve probably heard that 98% statistic.


Here’s the short form of how they got it:

So the study tells us only that 98% of women of child-bearing age who want to have sex without having babies use some form of birth control.  That qualifies as a sort of “d’uh” moment.

He’s got the long form, with details, at the link.


Honors for pointing it out first, and being a reporter who actually did reporting, goes to Mollie at Ricochet:


“So I guess we could say that among women aged 15-44 who had sex in the last three months but aren’t pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant, 87% of women who identify as Catholic used contraception. It’s worth pondering just who is left out of this 87%, other than, you know, everyone who doesn’t use contraception. Great stat, team journalist! I mean, the study was designed to find only women who would be most likely to use contraception. And it did.


Notable in the comments is someone making the argument that the Church’s current stance against the birth control, sterilization and abortion causing drug mandate is the same as arguing for laws preventing business on Sunday.  Instantly on seeing that, I knew what I’d say if I had a Ricochet membership—“No, it’s like having a law that requires all businesses to be open.”


22 thoughts on “Catholic Women on Birth Control”

  1. how many catholic women use birth control is not the point anyway. its a straw man.

    anybody who attends Mass on sunday can tell it is in wide use among the 'faithful' just by judging how few families show up with 3 or more kids.
    and the days of 5 or more kids are largely over.

  2. Hit a sore point, Gino…. going for complete on this. You're quite right, it is a strawman, and an ad homen to boot. The rest of this is points on why comparing Sunday Mass today with Sunday Mass last century doesn't track exactly with contraception.

    The advances in NFP are rather amazing in the last decade or two, and there are a shocking number of women who cannot have children. (I had a long heart-to-heart with a friend and passed on some of the NFP tricks I've picked up; their son is almost one, now.) Some just because, some because of who they use to be– side effects of having once bought the lie about birth control being harmless, and of the explosion in STDs. Given the utter mess that is religious education, some of those women were lied to and thought they were doing nothing wrong. (A couple of couples on my mom's side fall in this category. I'm going to ignore possible willful ignorance as irrelevant.)

    It's very dangerous to charity to think that just because a couple doesn't have a large family, they're using contraception. On my dad's side, for example, there's only one other son that was able to…um… get a woman with child. My dad and the uncle with children both married families with very high fertility; the rest didn't. There's a LOT of pain invoked by the assumption that a lack of children means you're trying not to have them. I don't think I've seen a single blogpost about the aches and pains of pregnancy where there were more than ten comments and one wasn't some poor lady who's tried desperately to have kids, but can't. My aunts are probably part of why this is such a sore spot, and why my sister and I both were terrified we wouldn't be able to have kids.

    Heck, most of my married friends that are my age are trying to have kids, most for the last several years. I'm not even thirty yet, but when women get married after peak fertility, have high stress and aren't as healthy as they might have been… no wonder birth rates go down. I only know one person from school who was married at 18, while my mom was unusual for not being married by 25, and a family friend was one of a large number married at 17. My school wasn't exactly representational (high number of yuppy brats) but among my classmates it's unusual to have been married at this point.

    I just had a mildly funny point come to mind– sperm can't stand being body temperature. One of the things a couple trying to have kids can do is have the husband switch to boxers. Wonder how the invention of whitey-tighties changed fertility rates, not to mention tight pants and hot showers on demand….

    Oh, and estrogen mimicking substances, like soy, would play with a woman's cycle. If I had a good NFP reference site to point to, I'd just link that. ;^p

  3. i'm shocked that the age dropped in the 1960s from where it was. i'll chalk it up to the invention (and wide ownership) of the car, and the ablility to travel easily (meaning, also, finding mates in these travels, i.e. the next town, that didnt exist back in your home town).

    strange…. i hear all the time 'i cant have any more kids'…. from seemingly normal women.
    i'm thinking that maybe such may not be so true. medical knowledge has given us the impression that what is less easy is now difficult? i dont know.
    women(and men) know more now about fertility and how it works than my mom's generation did.
    yet. my grandmother (raised in a strict catholic home) had 12 siblings. the smallest family among her sibs was two (her own), and she took measures to not have more. serious measures.
    all of her sibs have 4 to 8 kids, and those that had only 4 had other issues, like divorce, that prevented further breeding.

    (grandma was the oldest of 12. she grew up in dire poverty, and was determined not to pass poverty on to her kids, and why she stopped at 2.)
    she later (in her old age) regretted having only 2.

    she was looking upon her brother, with his 8 kids, and 32 grandkids (and counting)…(grandma was all about her three grand babies) and thinking that he actually ended up with 'more' in the end…. despite his years of life long financial struggle.
    hell, his wife was expecting a baby while three of her daughters-in-law were also expecting, and he already had 4 grandkids by then.

    i'm thinking 'infertility' is not as common as claimed.
    my God daughter, after 4 years of claiming she cant have anymore (per her doctor), is 5 months along with her second.

    infertility is not a natural occurance. if it were, there wouldnt be so many of us.

  4. on second thought…. maybe not being married during prime conception periods of life has something to do with it. we are marrying older.

    think back to 100yrs ago. we didnt have the hygiene we have today (daily baths and showers). i'd have to be really 'up to' the chore (like 18-25yrs old) to engage a woman who wasnt sufficiently showered. (or she, with me).
    just a thought….
    (at 18-25, i would have hit anything anywhere under any circumstances. nobody is offputting enough when you are that rearing to go… and i'm sure gals are the same.)

  5. Gino, this isn't directed to you. It's directed toward a tendency in the Catholic blogosphere.

    Even back in the day, not everybody had seven or eight kids, even if they were trying, just like not everybody had twenty-three to thirty kids, even if they weren't trying very hard. Amazingly enough, different people have different numbers of kids given to them by the good Lord and the vicissitudes of Nature as He designed it.

    Then there are choices like my parents made. They never used birth control. They had three kids and, you know, just stopped having sex when it was likely. So that, you know, we could survive on a 1970's teacher's single salary. Choose life instead of starvation. Radical, man.

    It's pretty much impossible to get pregnant if you're not doing the deed at all. Even if you're married, somehow no pills are required.

    And if a married couple makes that sacrifice for rational reasons, or if a wife is barren or a husband sterile, or if some or all of their kids died by miscarriage or accident or horrible murder, they don't deserve to have anybody else looking down their nose, thinking, “Oh, you know they're using contraception. Just look at the number of kids they don't have.”

    And we know from the end of the Book of Job that God has a short way with people who assume evil where there is only misfortune.

    So yeah, let's not be making any assumptions about family size, in the combox or elsewhere. It's rude and it's low.

  6. My sympathies to your grandmother. What's that poem… of all the words of heart or pen/ the saddest are, “what might have been”?

    i'm thinking 'infertility' is not as common as claimed.
    my God daughter, after 4 years of claiming she cant have anymore (per her doctor), is 5 months along with her second

    IMHO, this is where a LOT of the grief comes from! We've got how many generations of doctors who were only taught how to overpower or bypass the reproductive system– I suspect that doctors had at least as much pregnancy finangling knowledge as animal husbandry folks. NFP is just formalizing this stuff, and expanding. (slowly)

    kinda personal… you neednt answer. do you use NFP?

    *grin* It is rather personal, but it's relevant to figure out my POV and if I'm talking out of my tail. ;^p
    Yes, I do use NFP– to get pregnant. Even then, it took some time– not as long as your daughter, but long enough. (When we want to slow down, I'm going to have to find a doctor that doesn't snarl at the idea. It would be nice to not have to do all the @#$@# research myself, and then fight the SOBs. I already had to yell to keep them from pushing a tubal on me after #2— just because Duchess was #2. Asking while I was in early labor, waiting to get drugs so I could get cut open was a really nasty trick, so I don't feel too bad about yelling as vehemently as I did.)

    It's not so much that infertility isn't as common as claimed, it's just not as binary as we tend to think– a little like the conversation over at your place about progesterone. “Incredibly complex” is an understatement– you have to have enough estrogen, but not too much, you have to have enough progesterone, but not too much, and “enough” or “too much” isn't absolute, it's relative and depends on the individual system and some other factors we haven't figured out. (Aren't likely to, either, when almost all of the effort is focused on overpowering systems instead of fixing them.)

    I don't know much about a man's system, for that matter– I suspect it's at least half as complex, even without the preparing for pregnancy thing.

    Heck, we still have no idea what effect the sledgehammer of hormonal birth control has on a woman's system, long-term–or on her childrens'. I'd be shocked if it didn't mess up the production of the hormones– that's the problem with steroids, isn't it?– and there are so many other factors that can mess up the natural rhythms…Light, for goodness sake– and exercise, and dieting, and probably drinking or partying on weekends, eating patterns. Between all the various stessors, including never having dark and not seeing actual sunlight for weeks at a time, I didn't have a cycle on the ship. Took two years to get working again, and I'm still not normal. A lot of the other women also didn't have a cycle– some were trying to get pregnant, too.

    My head hurts trying to quantify it all, and I don't even have highly technical knowledge!

    i'm shocked that the age dropped in the 1960s from where it was. i'll chalk it up to the invention (and wide ownership) of the car, and the ablility to travel easily (meaning, also, finding mates in these travels, i.e. the next town, that didnt exist back in your home town).

    Record keeping as well, maybe? Easier to find someone to marry you, too, and fewer common law marriages. I seem to remember my grandparents would have needed family to vouch for them if it had been a decade earlier, and they were both fully adult– come to think of it, they were both a LONG ways from home and any relatives; maybe being lonely helped change that, too?

  7. Suburbanbanshee-
    Gino, this isn't directed to you. It's directed toward a tendency in the Catholic blogosphere.

    Yeah, I've only caught small bits of it because the places I tend to frequent come down hard on that tendency. Might help that I frequent the areas that have other focuses and a Catholic perspective, rather than focusing on Catholicism alone. (Other than Jimmy Akin's place.)
    Still, there seem to be a lot of folks who REALLY like being nasty while claiming they're covered in glory!

    (note: there's a limit of 4096 characters to a reply….)

  8. i havent studied the issue on any level, just remarking upon my observations in general.
    i am open to any correction you wanna throw my way.

    my first wife was told she would have difficulty conceiving… well, i must have been a magic man, cause we ended up married ;).
    then she was told she wasnt dropping eggs… we conceived my daughter just a couple months after that.

    i seen similar stories so many times, i have a hard time accepting that so much of the claimed infertility is true.

    i look at the mormons, and there are large families everywhere. the catholics, not hardly.

    as for being on ship: i never knew it would mess with a gals cycle. i'm thinking there is still a lot to be understood about the hidden magic of female fertility.

    just like i know couples who tried for years to conceive, and where the doctors could find nothing abnormal with the pairing. they would give up … and end up expecting.
    (one family took 10 yrs, finally adopted, and imediatly got pregnant… and had four more after that in quick sucession. these two are intensly catholic and i know they didnt use any drugs or artificial means. fertility is a mystery.)

  9. A lot of the time, it seems like the “it will never work, we should just relax” step is the #1 way to get pregnant. ;^p
    Hm. I'd bet that the stress doesn't help any.

    An additional difficulty is that there are a LOT of levels of Catholic– cultural Catholics (same way that my mom's family is Irish, basically) that are basically agnostic would be unlikely to care what the Church teaches. I notice that folks seem to come back to the Church when their kids are teens and they suddenly start thinking “wait a minute… I'm fifty, my baby or two is DRIVING, but there's something missing….”

  10. for the couple (our families were really close) who spent 10 yrs trying to conceive before adopting, and getting pregnant…
    my dad said… 'nobody spelled out to them that they were supposed to have sex first'. LOL
    the family is rather uptight and proper in their morality and faith.

  11. *laughs* I have a cousin whose mother actually took me aside and only half jokingly asked me to have a talk with her, after I was pregnant with Duchess.

    Heck, the family down the road– their girl is the only non-blood I've let watch the Princess– spent an ungodly amount of money trying to get pregnant, barely got their boy there, and relaxed… boom, boom, the girl and their youngest hellion followed.

    That said, “just relax and it will work” is one of the reasons I have my categories of advice:
    Good advice: following it will be right.
    Bad advice: following it will be wrong:
    Great advice: good advice that's actually useful. (“don't worry,” “don't get killed,” etc are all good advice….)

  12. that is what a doctor told a coworker of mine. he already had a kid when he was 17. he later got married and they couldnt conceive.
    tested everything.
    no problems.
    still, 7 yrs and no baby…
    doctor told them to just chill…

    about 2 yrs later, it happened, and again soon after.

    i was very happy for them, especially him, cause i know what he went through not being a part of his firts kids life(he fought like hell, and lost every step of the way. not fair, he was good guy coming from a bad back ground. the first time i ever saw a 'tough guy' cry openly when talking about the kid he was denied. not exagerating: most guys feared danny. he was a what a tough guy is. truthfully, inside he was all sugar, just nobody saw it).

  13. I'm going to say the same thing as others, but the percentage of Catholics doing this or that is irrelevant. This is all about state-imposed morality.

  14. Late to the discussion, but…

    I was told after I had my firstborn that my ovaries were shrunken, and resembled those in menopause. I figured that the medicines I'd been taking for my heart problem were the cause, shrugged and figured I was sterile. I'd have liked more kids, but I had my little girl, my blessing from heaven.

    R personally felt that the diagnosis was bunk, since I still had my period. Our son is 5 years old now, and has recently discovered the joys of mud.

  15. I did not read the comments (famous last words) but, depending on to whom you talk, “rhythm” is, indeed, a form of contraception. It is most definitely a form of contraception if you actually look at dictionary definitions and such.

    By the way, my mom often joked about my youngest brother being born “holding the pill” (my mom forgot to take). And my sister was a result of the rhythm method of birth control, being conceived on the only “safe” day that month. Heh.

    And for the record, my immediate family is not now Catholic, and except for a very brief time with my sister, none of my immediate family has ever been Catholic. So the Catholic “rhythm” method was not a “religious” decision.

    1. Yes, it is a form of trying to influence if you get pregnant– the problem is that listing it in this context, “birth control” and “contraception” are about artificial means, and the statistic is being artificial inflated to make it seem like Catholics are violating binding teachings.

      I’ve been assured that the “rhythm” method of the old days has very little to do with modern Natural Family Planning, although it could be considered the better researched granddaughter of that method… lots of keeping track of individual body changes and such, rather than strictly day-counting. I’ve only learned enough to HELP get pregnant!

      My sister has a friend that is a midwife’s daughter. She’s got three kids, each one conceived on a different form of birth control– Pill, Depo and an IUD. Wasn’t taking any other meds, etc, she’s just a one-woman statistic skewer.

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