Women, Reproductive Rights and the Catholic Church

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In Catholicism, there is a distinct sexism present in interpretations from the Bible. Over time, many different denominations of Christianity have fought against the idea of banning contraception, as it forces women to become an instrument solely for producing offspring, as opposed to being able to have rights over their bodies within marriage. Starting in the 1920s, Protestants greatly opposed birth control. Throughout the ‘30s and ‘50s however, attitudes began to shift. Anglican churches began endorsing birth control. As a result,Catholicism began teaching the rhythm method as the only acceptable form of contraception, even though it was still frowned upon to commit any sexual acts in Catholicism, regardless of whether or not you’re married, without the intent of procreation. different cultures of Catholicism also have different views of contraception. For example, 85% of Filipinos use or support some methods of birth control.

This article uses multiple branches of Christianity in order to compare their teachings to Catholicism. It studies what women were taught about contraceptives over time and the consequences women have faced for choosing to use contraceptives. This article is useful for understanding our podcast because much like Claire Pollard discussed in her interview, sex before marriage is heavily frowned upon and Natural Family Planning is the only modern acceptable form of birth control. (1)

It also shows that overtime views and interpretations changed which we, too, mention in our podcast  of our conclusion. This article also ties into the class reading we did on the article “Sexual Inactivity During Young Adulthood Is More Common Among U.S. Millennials and iGen: Age, Period, and Cohort Effects on Having Sexual Partners After Age 18” because it illustrates the Catholics condemnation of sex before marriage which is also a cause of why some of the millennials today are having less sex. “Participants may interpret the phrase ‘had sex with’ in a variety of ways that may influence their response… It is possible that earlier generations counted any sexual activity as sex, thus increasing their counts of partners,whereas younger generations, perhaps influenced by abstinence-focused education and purity pledges, may see sex as including only vaginal–penile penetration,thus leading them to report lower numbers of sexual partners.” (2)

By considering these diverse understandings of the definition of sex, it could have changed whether or not people thought they needed contraceptives to perform any sexual act and now that today it is clearly defined, more people are choosing abstinence. (3)


[1] Ruether, Rosemary R. “Women, Reproductive Rights and the Catholic Church” Feminist Theology. Retrieved December 12, 2018 from (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0966735007085999).

[2] Keane, Lily. Hanna Karpstein, Emily Sannella and Matt Lee. 2018. “Sex and Scripture” interview with Claire Pollard conducted November 19.

[3] Twenge, Jean M., Ryne A. Sherman and Brooke E. Wells. “Sexual Inactivity During Young Adulthood Is More Common Among U.S. Millennials and iGen: Age, Period, and Cohort Effects on Having Sexual Partners After Age 18” Springer Science.Retrieved December 12, 2018 from (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-016-0798-z).

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