98% of Catholic Women Use Birth Control

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– or so they say. “They” being random folks online, who seem to have picked it up from Huffington Post, or maybe Daily Kos.

To be fair, the original claim was that 98% of women (footnote in small type: at risk for unintended pregnancy) contracept, and came from the  Guttmacher Institute; if you don’t know who they are, they’re probably the source for 90% of the crazy-on-the-face-of-it sex related claims you’ve seen online, usually after a couple of rounds of rephrasing and from-memory citation.

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; it’s VERY long form, and I don’t want to copy all of it–  TheOFloinn opens with an introductory course on statistics.

That said, honors for pointing it out first, digging into the statistics 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.  Seems to me that a better comparison would be fighting a law that requires all businesses to be open on Sunday.

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  1. A better study would be on the number of women who attend Mass weekly and who are married – what percentage of them use artificial contraception? I’ll bet that the number would still be dismayingly high, but nowhere near even the 87% of the referenced study. The bottom line for us Catholics is a clear need to educate Catholics up to Church teaching on the matter of birth control. The bottom line for the use of such statistics to justify forcing Catholics to pay for birth control is – are you kidding me? I’ll bet that even 90% of Catholics who think is ok to use birth control are not in favor of paying for someone else’s.

    But, still, the main thing of this has still not risen to the surface – the determination on the left to make it a commonly held belief that pregnancy is a disease which needs to be prevented with birth control and treated with abortion. That is where we really need to have the fight – they are trying to make the normal course of human life appear to be a horrendous aberration to be fought against. There may be worse lies from the enemy, but not too many of them…

  2. While the claim isn’t supported by the study, we really have no reason to believe a wider study would deviant significantly. The study pool consisted of roughly 50% of the female population. The dispute is over the ideal study pool, which for argument’s sake, can be 100% of the female population. My guess is that at most we are looking at doubling the error band. Is anyone’s argument changed if 80% of Catholic women have ever used contraception and 90% of the general population?

    Needless to say there have been some pretty outrageous claims in reply to the study.
    1. There is a significant pool of women who are not trying to prevent pregnancy at any point in their fertile years.
    2. There is a significant pool of celibates.
    3. People who don’t go Church every Sunday are so dominating the statistics that a study of true Catholics would show a minuscule number who had used birth control. (Say that there are only 30% true Catholics. That would put the floor of contraception use at over 55%.)

  3. We really have no reason to think it wouldn’t, either: the study sample was specifically selected out of a larger pool of data in order to find probable contraception users, because the point was to look at whether religion affects the kind of contraception that probable contraception users use (for Catholics it doesn’t ). Likewise, determining the number of Catholic women who “are not trying to prevent pregnancy at any point in their fertile years” is neither useful (since such a description would include NFP and both converts and cradle Catholics who have stopped because of Church teaching) nor feasible short of a significant longitudinal study. (The data in question here only took a snapshot of a point in time; the pool of data from which the study drew its sample had thirty percent of Catholic women who had never been married also having never had sex at all, an obvious contributor to that number being the fact that this included teenage girls.) There’s nothing in this that tells us much about the Catholic female population at large; thinking otherwise is either mere speculation or statistical fallacy.

  4. I wonder how and where they found women to participate in this study. I have to say that if I were approached by the Alan Guttmacher Institute to participate in a study like this, I’d probably tell them to take a hike because I want nothing to do with promoting their agenda. Therefore, I would not be represented in the sample. The mere fact that it’s a poll about birth control being conducted by a pro-abortion group would probably cause a certain number of observant Catholic women to exclude themselves from the sample right off the bat.

  5. MZ,

    It showed 2% of Catholic women who are sexually active but trying to avoid getting pregnant as using NFP. (Confusingly, it also showed 11% of Catholic women who are sexually active but trying to avoid getting pregnant as using “no method” so go figure out that one.)


    Unhelpfully, it doesn’t slice those numbers by either frequency of mass attendance (overall it shows only 30% of Catholic women going to mass weekly) of whether or not they are married (it states generally, though doesn’t document the numbers, that sexual activity is significantly lower among unmarried women who attend services weekly or who say that religion is “very important” to them).

  6. Are we supposed to be surprised that a high percentage of ill-catechized women don’t follow Church teaching that is opposed to the zeitgeist? Color me shocked.

    Which, of course, is totally irrelevant to the morality of the issue, and even more irrelevant to whether the Church (or anyone) should be forced against their conscience to buy it for others. Want the pill? Buy it yourself.

  7. MZ-
    They specifically removed all the groups that would be likely to not be using; including them would definitely cause the results to be different! How different, we can’t know.

    Elaine Krewer-
    That was my response…. Part of why I liked TheOflynn’s post.

    not everyone knows what the heck “natural family planning” is; before I started reading blogs, I didn’t. I know that when I told my OBGYN that we use NFP, he wrote down “none.” Depending on their theology, women might say that they’re not trying to avoid an unintended pregnancy because they’re open to life.

    C Matt– yeah, there are some, and yeah, it’s not relevant, but when has that been a reason let a lie stand?

  8. My parish pastor said it best, “First, the Catholic Church must convince Catholics that birth control and abortion are morally wrong before it can hope to convince the rest of America to stop practicing and supporting them”.

  9. How is he doing on convincing the Catholics in his parish Don? I disagree with him, because frankly I think most of the rest of America is easier to convince, at least on the issue of abortion. The most notorious pro-aborts tend to be elected in states with the highest Catholic population, unfortunately. (The top five Catholic states are Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey and California, with a grand total of one pro-life Senator.) Exclude those states, and Roe v. Wade would be history. All too many Catholics in this country are willing to throw out the teachings of the Church in regard to abortion and contraception, with their Catholicism being reduced to Christmas and Easter Mass and a tribal allegiance to always vote for the Democrat.

  10. I’m a liberal, pro-life Catholic who has used birth control in the past, as recommended by my doctor for MEDICAL issues, not to prevent pregnancy. Although some of your posts and subsequent comments are interesting and insightful, there is a lot of misinformation and hypocricy that is very disturbing to me, esp coming from Catholics.

    First, I think it’s wrong to assume that being “on the left” or “liberal” is any less Catholic than conservatives when a lot of us liberals are indeed pro-life, in EVERY sense of the word, not just for abortion. How many of you conservatives voted FOR a political candidate who supported the war in Iraq, even though the Catholic Church was completely against it? How many of you voted FOR a candidate who supports the death penalty, even though the Catholic Church is against it? How many of you voted FOR a candidate who is against any sort of “universal health care” even though the Pope has specifically called for it? How many of you are in favor of a healthcare system controlled by insurance companies, the kind of companies that exist solely for profit by taking as much from someone and giving as little in return?

    Just to clear the record on health care, I’m Canadian living in the US with my American husband. Please STOP buying into the blatant lies and overblown stories about Canadian health care. It’s NOT gov’t run, it’s gov’t funded and privately delivered. The gov’t has ZERO say in people’s health care, they do NOT “choose” doctors for people. They merely foot the bill, similar to medicare. Canadians are not all dying on waitlists (survival rates for diseases are all comparable, some higher and some lower, than the US rates). Canadians are NOT all lining up at the US border for treatment. Less than 1% come to the US specifically for treatment, and it’s often covered by their Cdn plan. It’s also due more specialized doctors in the US, not a refusal of Cdn gov’t to pay – no different than Americans traveling to other states for specialized care. Besides, how many Americans travel to Canada or other countries for health care? A LOT more than Fox News will tell you. Bottom line is that Canada’s system is NOT perfect, but it’s much better, much more humane, and much more in line with Catholic teachings – than the current US system. And 85-95% of Canadians, Catholics, included would seek improvements but NEVER trade it for the insanely expensive, horribly discriminating, US system that pays CEOs up to $125 million a year while millions of Americans either can’t or struggle to afford basic care. What works in Canada might not work in the US, but the US system is ANTI-Catholic, no doubt about it. But enough of my health care rant… although I believe that educating Americans on the TRUTH and BENEFITS of universal health care is one fo the reasons God brought me to the USA!

    One more thing, how many of you complain non-stop about “free-loaders” and “welfare queens” even though a lot of WORKING poor need public assistance just to get and the Pope has called for strong social safety nets (incl. welfare) because it would be IMPOSSIBLE for the Catholic Church and private charities to care for all of the truly poor, sick and needy in this country – a collective body with a collective interest is the ONLY way to do it. Even if you drastically cut taxes, there is no way church and charity can provide a consistent, broad-based safety net for all who need it. I know even a democratically-elected gov’t can sometimes be over-reaching and fiscially irresponsible, but if you want to see what it’s like to live in a society with no social safety nets and a gov’t that caters only to the wealthy elite, then please spend time volunteering in Africa. You’ll be very happy to live in a country that has a minimum poverty level, even if some of those people are poor b/c they’re stupid and lazy. Please stop blaming the gov’t for everything and look to the greed of your fellow human as the root of most evils.

    As for the BC issue at hand, this is for insurance companies with Catholic affiliated institutions to OFFER BC as part of their compensation/benefits package. Nobody is being forced to use BC if they don’t agree with it, it’s about equal and affordable access to it for non-Catholic (and obviously some Catholic) employees. Do you think a Jehovah Witness employer should be able to refuse to allow insurance companies to offer his/her employees coverage for a blood transfusion? And what about the people who work for Catholic hospitals who get their paycheck and then go drink, gamble, cheat on their spouse? Does that mean the Catholic Church is supporting their behaviour? No. It’s a lot more complex than many of you conservatives want to make it out to be. I respect and understand the Bishop’s concerns, but I’m so disgusted by the politicians and people “on the right” who use this as a political tool to bash those of us “on the left” like we are all baby-killing freaks or lazy free-loaders.

  11. How many of you conservatives voted FOR a political candidate who supported the war in Iraq, even though the Catholic Church was completely against it? How many of you voted FOR a candidate who supports the death penalty, even though the Catholic Church is against it? How many of you voted FOR a candidate who is against any sort of “universal health care” even though the Pope has specifically called for it?

    You are evidently as familiar with the teachings of the Church as Nancy Pelosi, meaning not much at all. In each of the cases you’ve just mentioned, you are completely off about what the Church teaches or what one is supposed to believe as a Catholic. I would recommend reading, in particular, the Catechism of the Catholic Church if you believe that Church teaching prohibits the death penalty – and I say that as someone who does not support the death penalty.

    Nobody is being forced to use BC if they don’t agree with it,

    Nice strawman, but completely irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    it’s about equal and affordable access to it for non-Catholic (and obviously some Catholic) employees

    These employees are not forced to work for Catholic employees. As for the “affordable” thing, I’ll once again refer to Jeff Goldstein.

    “you shouldn’t make contraceptives an issue because 99% of all women in the US have used them. Which is why we need to make sure contraceptives are “free,” because otherwise, how in the world can we expect the 99% of women who’ve used them to get them and avoid a women’s health crisis?

    Oh, wait —”

    and what about the people who work for Catholic hospitals who get their paycheck and then go drink, gamble, cheat on their spouse?

    You’ve never taken a logic course, have you?

  12. I also note this about Stacy’s logic. Some Bishops oppose the death penalty or the Iraq War = moral imperative for Catholics to oppose these things. ALL Bishops oppose HHS Mandate = just ignore them.

  13. Stacey is a pro-life liberal?

    How much pro-life?

    When she voted for the most extreme abortion candidate oi the planet, Obama, Stacey voted for abortion.

  14. Pro-life liberals,

    Obama did not immediately end all (Afghanistan and Iraq) the wars on January 20, 2009. In fact, he started a few new ones.

    Obama did not close Gitmo or free those whose human dignity was stolen by Bush: worse than Hitler. It’s still operating.

    He stopped water-boarding three mass murderers who are no worse for the wear and replaced it with unmanned, aerial drone assassinations of hundreds.

    And, Obama made things so much better for the common good like, like, like 6,000,000 fewer jobs and $3.51 gasoline compared to $1.84 on the day before he took over. Not a problem they can’t afford the $1.84, either.

    I don’t think hope and change is working.

  15. “When she voted for the most extreme abortion candidate on the planet”

    Stacey identified herself as a Canadian married to an American. If she is not a U.S. citizen, she could not have voted for Obama or any other U.S. officeholder. She could not have voted for “the most extreme abortion candidate on the planet” unless he or she is Canadian, and maybe not even then.

  16. I hope that doesn’t foul up my Canadian immigration application.
    T. Shaw

    Just don’t refer to “the President of Canada” in any interviews. (Video here.)

  17. Paul Zummo-
    Thanks. Just got back from far too much exposure to Seattle drivers, wasn’t looking forward to the the same old basic explanation….

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