The Catholic hierarchy opposes all forms of artificial contraception, yet 98% of Catholics in the United States have used some form of contraception at some point in their lives. Catholics for Choice envisions a world in which everyone has equal access to all forms of contraception, unencumbered by religious persecution.
For countless people around the world, access to contraception is a matter or life or death. For example, in countries like the Philippines, surging population growth contributes to a cycle of poverty and hunger that could be curbed through the availability of birth control. Untold numbers of women and children are suffering as a direct consequence of the church’s ban on artificial contraceptives.
The Legacy of Humanae Vitae
In 1968, Pope Paul VI formally expressed the Catholic position on contraception in an encyclical called Humanae Vitae, which slammed the door on modern contraception.Explore Humanae Vitae
Despite scientific evidence that condoms are critical in HIV/AIDS-prevention, the Vatican has refused to relax the ban on contraceptives.The ban on condoms
Questions about Contraception
We've compiled these talking points to help inform Catholic conversations about contraception.
The different forms of contraception recognized and approved by the Food and Drug Administration are:
- Barrier methods that include condoms, diaphragms and sponges
- Hormonal methods, like birth control pills and vaginal rings
- Sterilization procedures for women (tubal ligation) and men (vasectomies)
- Implanted devices, like intrauterine devices (IUDs)
- Emergency contraception, like Plan B and Ella
Family planning refers to the ability of individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and to choose the spacing and timing of their births. It is best achieved through the use of artificial contraceptive methods.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), family planning is one of the 10 great public health achievements of the twentieth century, on par with such accomplishments as vaccination and advances in motor vehicle safety.
The Catholic Church forbids all forms of artificial contraception, including condoms, birth control pills, IUDs (intrauterine devices), tubal ligation, vasectomies and emergency contraception like Plan B.
The Catholic Church forbids birth control measures such as condoms or the pill because it views them as separating sexual intercourse from its intended consequence of reproduction. It endorses only “natural family planning” methods to avoid pregnancy because all other methods present a physical barrier to the natural reproductive process.
According to the National Institute of Health, approximately 1% of people in the United States use natural family planning. It has a typical failure rate of 24%.
Church officials and others argue that certain forms of contraception are abortifacients, which would mean that they induce abortions. These include IUDs, Plan B and Ella (ulipristal acetate), which came on the market in 2010.
Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that the IUD, Plan B and Ella work only as contraceptives and are not abortifacients.
There is only one drug approved to induce abortion. It is called RU-486 (mifepristone) and is not on the FDA’s list of approved contraception.
Institutionally, the Catholic Church has taken the position that the only morally acceptable way to avoid HIV/AIDS is to abstain from sex outside of marriage and to abstain from sex within marriage if a husband or wife is infected with HIV. Its position is based on the church’s teaching that sex should only take place within marriage and should always be open to procreation.
There are various ways people can prevent the transmission of HIV. For people who are sexually active, using latex condoms correctly and consistently is one of the most effective ways to prevent infection.