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Monday, September 21, 2015

The Pope and the Birth Control Ban

An editorial in The New York Times today: The Pope and the Birth Control Ban

[...] The church establishment under Pope Francis continues to oppose access to birth control. The Holy See’s delegation at the United Nations has objected to the inclusion of contraception and reproductive rights in worldwide development goals. At every turn, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has fought the Affordable Care Act’s requirements for contraception coverage. In the Philippines, Catholic authorities strenuously opposed a bill to allow government health centers to stock free or subsidized birth control; the law finally passed in 2012. Catholic hospitals and clinics, the only option in some regions, often do not offer contraceptives.

Catholics around the world, meanwhile, largely support the use of birth control. A 2014 poll of 12,000 Catholics in 12 countries found that 78 percent supported contraception; in Spain, France, Colombia, Brazil and the pope’s native Argentina, more than 90 percent supported its use. In a 2008 survey, 71 percent of Catholics in the Philippines supported the country’s reproductive health bill.

Expanding birth control access worldwide would have huge benefits. Some 225 million women want to avoid pregnancy but don’t use reliable contraception, the Guttmacher Institute says. Providing them with contraception would prevent 52 million unintended pregnancies, 14 million unsafe abortions and 70,000 maternal deaths a year.

The Catholic Church has considered lifting its ban on contraception in the past. In 1964, Pope Paul VI convened a commission on the issue. A majority of members, including 60 of 64 theologians and nine of 15 cardinals, recommended repealing the ban. Instead, Pope Paul issued an encyclical confirming it would stay in place.

Pope Francis praised Pope Paul’s decision in his speech in Manila. But instead of looking to his predecessors, he should listen to Catholics today ......

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