Thursday, February 2, 2012

Birth-control "abhorrent" to Catholics?

President Obama has come under withering criticism from a segment of the Catholic community for his decision not to exempt religious-affiliated non-profits, such as the University of Notre Dame, from new health insurance rules that require health plans to cover the cost of contraception. For example the Catholic Action League has denounced the policy, calling it "an expression of unmitigated contempt for the rights, consciences, and sensibilities of Catholics” and complaining that the institutions "will be forced to pay for procedures, devices, and chemicals abhorrent to the consciences of Catholics."

Let's put aside the fact that the exemption to religious institutions and to organizations that primarily serve or employ people from a particular religious group stands.

Those procedures, devices, and chemicals aren't abhorrent to most Catholics, at least on revealed preference grounds.

Catholics contracept at approximately the same rates as other groups. In April 2011, the Alan Guttmacher Institute released a analysis of 2006-8 data from the National Survey of Family Growth. Among sexually-active women of reproductive age who were neither pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant, 89 percent of Catholics were using some form of birth control, which is identical to all women in that group. The types of contraception were also nearly identical. Rates of pill use were 31 percent for Catholics and for women generally; rates of IUD use were 5 percent for Catholics and women generally; rates of sterilization (of either the woman or her partner) were 32 percent for Catholics and 33 percent for women generally, and rates of condom usage were 15 percent for Catholics and 14 percent for women generally.

Thus, it appears that the "sensibilities" of the vast majority of Catholics include not just the tolerance but the regular use of contraceptives. The rights of these Catholics and the many non-Catholics who are employed at these tax-advantaged (and often taxpayer-supported) institutions also need to be considered.