According to Russell Shorto in last week’s New York Times Magazine cover story, Contra-Contraception, these developments are a result of right-wing religious leaders’ growing influence on politics and public policy. He noted that according to these religious leaders, contraception “encourages sexual promiscuity, sexual deviance (like homosexuality) and a preoccupation with sex that is unhealthful even within marriage.”
What Shorto misses is the extent to which Catholics and evangelical Christians themselves use contraception. Here is the latest data:
88 percent of Catholic women currently use birth control, roughly the same rate as other Americans. [Catholics for a Free Choice]
70 percent of evangelical women are sexually active and don’t wish to become pregnant. 90 percent of these women use birth control. [2002 National Survey of Family Growth]
Clearly, these women recognize what their religious leaders do not: that responsible sexual activity is a normal and healthy part of life; that not every sexual act is intended for reproduction; and that preventing unintended pregnancy – by using contraception – is a responsible, moral decision. Now if only our public officials would come to the same conclusion.