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CFC Testifies at Historic FDA Over-the-Counter Birth Control Hearing

By Catholics for Choice May 9, 2023

CFC was invited to testify before the FDA for a historic hearing on making birth control pills available over the counter. President Jamie Manson gave the following testimony on May 9, 2023.

Testimony Transcript

Good afternoon. I’m Jamie Manson, President of Catholics for Choice. I have a Master of Divinity from Yale in Catholic theology and ethics, and I did my research under one of the country’s leading Catholic medical ethicists, Sr. Margaret Farley, RSM.

I’m here today to state unequivocally that Catholics overwhelmingly support the use of birth control. Indeed, even though the hierarchy of the Catholic church continues to condemn the use of artificial contraception, 89% of lay Catholics believe that contraception is either morally acceptable or not a moral issue at all, and 98% of sexually active Catholic women have used contraception.  

I’m focusing on the Catholic church’s teaching today because the church is one of the original, primary sources of stigma, shame and, indeed, misinformation about birth control pills.

The church’s all-male, celibate hierarchy officially banned all forms of artificial contraception less than 100 years ago. And this teaching has had undue influence on U.S. healthcare policy since — and, one could argue, now more than ever.

The powerful truth is, there is much in Catholic teaching that could bless the idea of over-the-counter access to birth control. For example, a fundamental Catholic teaching is that a person’s individual conscience must be the final arbiter in all of their moral decision-making — even it if contradicts the church’s official position. Over-the-counter access to birth control pills advances this kind of individual moral autonomy.

The church also teaches the notion of “responsible parenthood,” saying that it is a moral duty for couples to determine the number, spacing, and timing of their children, taking into account their own physical, economic, psychological, and social conditions, as well as their ability to provide for the health, education, and growth of their children. Offering birth control over the counter ensures that families will have the resources necessary to follow through on those decisions.

The Catholic church’s rich social justice tradition calls us to have a special concern for society’s most vulnerable: those struggling with economic insecurity, those facing violence, those living in rural areas, and immigrants.

Over-the-counter access to birth control pills will reduce many barriers to contraception and advance healthcare, especially for those most in need.  

Sadly, for years, some Catholic leaders have advanced the argument that birth control pills can induce abortion. This claim is unequivocally false, lacks any scientific or medical backing whatsoever, and has even been debunked by the official journal of the Catholic Health Association.

Access to the pill is nothing short of a life-or-death issue for many women and families. Regardless of what Catholics believe, freedom from religion should include the right to be free from the religious beliefs of others. No religious group should stand in the way of the accessibility of any FDA-approved medication.

Decades of use and research demonstrate that birth control pills are safe and highly effective at preventing pregnancy and meet the FDA’s criteria to be available without a prescription. As a Catholic leader, I implore you to vote yes to bring OPill over the counter.

Thank you.

Catholics for Choice

was founded in 1973 to serve as a voice for Catholics who believe that the Catholic tradition supports a woman’s moral and legal right to follow her conscience in matters of sexuality and reproductive health.