People of All Religions Use Birth Control and Have Abortions

People of All Religions Use Birth Control and Have Abortions
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This post originally appeared on The Guttmacher Institute. It has been republished with permission.

People of all faiths and religions want, need and use reproductive health care services. In fact, the most recent data show that more than 99 percent of people in the United States who identify as religious have ever used contraceptive methods such as the birth control pill, IUDs and condoms; only 1 percent have solely used natural family planning.

(Natural family planning, more formally known as fertility awareness-based methods, encompasses a range of methods including periodic abstinence, temperature rhythm and cervical mucus tests. These methods are the only type of contraception approved by the Catholic church hierarchy.)

A Vast Majority of Women—Including Religious Women—Use Contraception

The percentage of women who have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning is nearly the same across different religions. According to newly updated 2017 data:

  • 99.6 percent of women with no religious affiliation have done so;             
  • 99.0 percent of Catholics;
  • 99.4 percent of mainline Protestants;
  • 99.3 percent of evangelical Protestants; and
  • 95.7 percent of people with other religious affiliations.

And if we break it down even further by current contraceptive type among women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy, we find that people across religious affiliations use the full spectrum of methods. For example:

  • Among Catholic women: 25 percent use sterilization, 15 percent use long-acting reversible contraceptives (like IUDs) and 25 percent use hormonal methods (like birth control pills).
  • Among mainline Protestant women: 26 percent use sterilization, 14 percent use long-acting reversible contraceptives and 28 percent use hormonal methods.
  • Among evangelical Protestant women: 36 percent use sterilization, 15 percent use long-acting reversible contraceptives and 20 percent use hormonal methods.

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A Range of Women—Religious and Not—Obtain Abortions

The same goes for abortion. In fact, research has consistently shown that the majority of people who obtain an abortion have a religious affiliation. According to the most recent Guttmacher Institute data, in 2014:

  • 17 percent of abortion patients identified as mainline Protestant;
  • 13 percent as evangelical Protestant;
  • 24 percent as Catholic;
  • 38 percent reported no religious affiliation; and
  • 8 percent reported some other affiliation.

The bottom line is that people of all religions use reproductive health services, including contraceptive care and abortion. Everyone deserves access to affordable and quality care that meets their individual needs with dignity and compassion.

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Rachel K. Jones is a Principal Research Scientist at the Guttmacher Institute.