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My Take: Why I’m a Catholic for contraception
February 10th, 2012
02:30 PM ET

My Take: Why I’m a Catholic for contraception

Editor's Note: Karalen L. Morthole is a senior majoring in political science at Catholic University of America.

By Karalen L. Morthole, Special to CNN

I have been a Catholic my whole life. Baptized as a baby and confirmed in the seventh grade, I attended weekly catechism classes and received a Jesuit education. Never once did the opinion of the church on a person's use of contraceptives surface.

In high school, I was prescribed birth control to balance my hormones. I suffered from terrible mood swings that had negative effects on my relationship with my family and got me into trouble with teachers. I also experienced menstrual cramps so painful as to be debilitating; sometimes, they left me unable to move.

My mother, a devout Catholic, had no problem with my taking birth control, because she recognized the dramatic effects this simple medication had on my life. Birth control gave me a new, healthy and balanced way to live. As a 22-year-old woman, I am able to think more rationally because of birth control.

Teachers at the Jesuit high school I attended urged students to protect themselves when they became sexually active, to use condoms to stamp out the risk of contracting a viral sexually transmitted disease that would affect the rest of their lives. Some would criticize my teachers for that, but I thank them. My peers and I were taught by caring and realistic teachers with experience making decisions to promote their own health. Some had seen the horrors of sexually transmitted diseases.

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Birth control, condoms and emergency contraception have all served their purpose in my life, because each work in different preventative ways. Birth control has aided my mental health, giving me a clearer head; condoms have protected me from contracting diseases from sexual partners. Emergency contraceptives were there when I was uncertain about whether I’d become pregnant and needed reassurance. I’m not ready to raise a child on my own.

Even though the official Catholic Church teaches against contraceptives, I do not feel immoral using them. They’ve allowed me to live my life without the fear of unwanted pregnancies or deadly diseases.

My religion has played a large part of my life, laying the groundwork for my personal relationship with God. It has taught me how to respect others, be a human with integrity and help those in need. Catholicism is a beautiful religion that supports family values and tolerance of others and leads us to serve others, a teaching I’ve adapted into my everyday living. The Catholic Church does an exceptional job standing up for those who live in poverty and suffer injustices.

But on contraception, the Catholic bishops have taken a stance that violates the basic rights that affect millions of Catholics across the country and shows a lack of concern for women's health.

It is disheartening that the Catholic bishops were so opposed to the Obama administration's decision to require religious institutions like hospitals and colleges to provide their faculty, staff and students with access to reproductive health care, which includes birth control, emergency contraceptives and condoms. Even after the White House announced a revised policy Friday that exempts religious institutions from having to pay for the contraception coverage, at least one bishop voiced disgust. The U.S. bishops said in a statement Friday that it's "too soon to tell whether and how much improvement (there's been) on core concerns."

The bishops have gone so far as to threaten to cease health care coverage to the faculty and staff at my college if it’s forced to comply with the Affordable Health Care Act.

Even though the church will not support women's health needs and denies them opportunities to care for their physical and mental health, it does apparently condone other uses for condoms. In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI endorsed the use of condoms for male prostitutes, saying condoms “can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility,” and could help “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection.”

In my view, any sexual activity that spreads deadly diseases is sinful because it shows complete disregard for human health and human life. The Catholic Church believes that condoms negatively impact the sexual lives of men and women, preventing reproduction and the creation of life.

I believe that condoms are, in fact, pro-life. They help women and men act responsibly in regards to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Condoms also prevent unintended pregnancies that could result in abortions, another issue that the Catholic Church has strong views about.

As a Catholic, I stand with President Obama's decision to require religious institutions to provide access to contraceptives. I believe that birth control can be used by religious people without having a negative effect on someone’s faith. Catholics value human life. I believe that includes acknowledging the rights of women to take care of our bodies.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karalen L. Morthole.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (1,826 Responses)
  1. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.!

    February 11, 2012 at 9:23 am |
    • Todd Beaucoudray

      Oh, really? Even seen an amputee grow a limb?

      February 11, 2012 at 10:11 am |
  2. Pam

    The young little liberal democrat girl in this article uses the term "access to contraceptives". Is her IQ really that low? Every person in the United States has access to contraceptives and no one is trying to change this. What is about to change? The government will soon have the power to put you in prision if you refuse to buy contraception for someone else. What is it with liberal democrats. Why can't they see the difference between their freedom to do something and forcing someone else to do something?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • Mike

      Well said Pam!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • Todd Beaucoudray

      Pam, maybe your medical insurance should refuse your pap smears, breasts checks, etc. It's the same issue.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:13 am |
  3. Mike

    buy your own contraceptives...... stop looking for hand outs

    February 11, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • savannah

      looks like you missed the point of this article.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Todd Beaucoudray

      Do your own prostate check, Mike.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:14 am |
  4. Reality

    Reiteration has and always will be an important learning tool.

    "Facts on Contraceptive Use

    http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html
    January 2008

    "WHO NEEDS CONTRACEPTIVES?

    • 62 million U.S. women (and men?) are in their childbearing years (15–44).[1]

    • 43 million women (and men) of reproductive age, or 7 in 10, are se-xually active and do not want to become pregnant, but could become pregnant if they or their partners fail to use a con-traceptive method.[2]

    • The typical U.S. woman (man?) wants only 2 children. To achieve this goal, she (he?) must use cont-raceptives for roughly 3 decades.[3]

    WHO USES CON-TRACEPTIVES?

    • Virtually all women (98%) aged 15–44 who have ever had int-ercourse have used at least one con-traceptive method.[2](and men?)

    • Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using one.[2] (and men)

    • 31% of the 62 million women (and men?) do not need a method because they are infertile; are pregnant, postpartum or trying to become pregnant; have never had inte-rcourse; or are not se-xually active.[2]

    • Thus, only 7% of women aged 15–44 are at risk of unwanted pregnancy but are not using con-traceptives.[2] (and men?)

    • Among the 42 million fertile, s-exually active women who do not want to become pregnant, 89% are practicing con-traception.[2] (and men?)

    WHICH METHODS DO WOMEN (men?) USE?

    • 64% of reproductive-age women who practice con-traception use reversible methods, such as oral con-traceptives or condoms. The remaining women rely on female or male sterilization.[2]

    FIRST-YEAR CON-TRACEPTIVE FAILURE RATES

    Percentage of women (men?) experiencing an unintended pregnancy (a few examples)

    Method……………..Typical

    Pill (combined)……… 8.7
    Tubal sterilization ……0.7
    Male condom ……….17.4
    Vasectomy…………… 0.2

    Periodic abstinence.. 25.3 (RCC approved)
    Calendar 9.0 (RCC approved)
    Ovulation Method 3.0 (RCC approved)
    Sympto-thermal 2.0 (RCC approved)
    Post-ovulation 1.0 (RCC approved)

    No method 85.0" (RCC approved and important to women and men wanting to get pregnant)

    (Abstinence) 0 (RCC approved)

    (Masturbation) 0

    More facts about contraceptives from

    guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_contr_use.html

    "CON-TRACEPTIVE METHOD CHOICE

    Cont-raceptive method use among U.S. women who practice con-traception, 2002

    Method No. of users (in 000s) % of users
    Pill.............. 11,661.................. 30.6
    Male condom 6,841.................. 18.0 "

    i.e.
    The pill fails to protect women 8.7% during the first year of use (from the same reference previously shown).

    i.e. 0.087 (failure rate)
    x 62 million (# child bearing women)
    x 0.62 ( % of these women using contraception )
    x 0.306 ( % of these using the pill) =

    1,020,000 unplanned pregnancies
    during the first year of pill use.

    For male condoms (failure rate of 17.4 and 18% use level)

    1,200,000 unplanned pregnancies during the first year of male condom use.

    The Gut-tmacher Inst-itute (same reference) notes also that the perfect use of the pill should result in a 0.3% failure rate
    (35,000 unplanned pregnancies) and for the male condom, a 2% failure rate (138,000 unplanned pregnancies).

    o Conclusion: The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions and S-TDs in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer methods to include multiple method (e.g. combined pill and condom) in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • ......

      Hit report abuse on every reality repeat post

      February 11, 2012 at 9:20 am |
    • Frank

      You need to re-check your "facts."

      February 11, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Michele

      I don't have anything AGAINST contraception, and thank you for going through all that trouble to post all those stats. However, stats are numbers that are easily manipulated, and if you want to drug yourself via the pill or use any other type of contraception, PAY FOR IT YOURSELF!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:22 am |
  5. 21k

    as a republican atheist, and happy product of a catholic school education, i know that most of the folks in the pews on sunday don't really want to be there. they know there is no god, but are just afraid of what their family and friends will think if they cut loose and go with the truth. don't believe me? just observe how they act outside of church: they drink, use contraception, swear, screw around with people who are not their spouses (see gingrich) and will kill you leaving the parking lot because they are so frustrated they just wasted yet another hour of their lives listening to a possible child predator tell them how to live. if god didn't stop someone as bad as hitler, then he doesn't care or is not there.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Michele

      This post has absolutely NOTHING to do with the issue! Learn to stay on topic, then perhaps we will take you a bit more seriously.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  6. Enlishetened

    The simple question is – what would Jesus do? Read His answers in the Bible and understand what is RIGHT and what is WRONG. Abortion is MURDER and contraception is WRONG. At your day of judgement – you stand alone to answer for your deeds. Excuses are not accepted. Read the Bible and study it. Learn for yourself what is RIGHT and what is WRONG.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Michele

      Your problem is that you're so busy quoting what the Catholic Church dictates and the bible (a man made book), that you don't see the real problem. The problem is that folks don't want to get stuck paying for other people's contraceptive methods via increased premiums. Yes, I was raised Catholic, but I'm not dumb enough to practice the religion. I go right to the main source...no church needed.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Kay

      so you think God wants us to have 13 or 15 kids and then not have food or shelter for them??? is that going to make God happy?? its OK for me to stand and tell God that I would like to take care of the 5 kids that I have and now I dont want any more so Im going to do whatever I can to not have another one... it between me and my God so you do what you think is good and right for you and i will do what is good and right for me and my family of 7.... God bless!!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  7. Mommy1101

    I think that religion and the government should stay out of a woman's uterus. A person is a person who is capable of making a decision. Whether or not they make the right decision, there should still be access to birth control. People need to get with modern times. Think of society as a whole without contraception and the overpopulation problem. This is just wrong. Why is it even an issue? All the political people need something to debate and run out of subjects. It's nonsense. Quit worrying about whether or not someone needs or wants the choice to take birth control and her religion. Focus on real issues like the environment, the war in Iraq, Nuclear threat from Iran, feeding the poor and giving the people of our nation opportunity instead of funneling it to 3rd world countries for cheap labor.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Michele

      It's not about the "right" to use contraceptives. It's about WHO PAYS FOR IT. People that use it need to pay for it themselves.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  8. John Straw

    CNN, you are shameless!

    February 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
  9. clarke

    Most people have their own belief system, right, wrong or indifferent, it belongs to them. It is not up to any of us to judge and it will make no difference at the end of the day, really.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:16 am |
  10. Shannon

    I am a Catholic as well. While I do agree that birth control can be used for other things such as regulating periods, hormones, acne, etc.; I disagree with everything else this young woman has said. I hate to say it, but I see it as a typical young Catholic who is choosing which rules of the Catholic Faith do and don't apply to her.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  11. Homie

    As a Catholic I do not stand by President Obama and push to have contraceptives and morning after pills distributed through private and religious based health care providers like their simple sweet jelly beans, especially when they must be paid for with tax dollars.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  12. John NYC

    I too am a Catholic who disagrees with his Church's position on contraception (and a whole host of other issues too). But, this debate was not about contraception, it was about the right of government to impose restrictions on any religion that violates its tenets and the conscience of many of its adherents as it goes about its ministry, outside of the pure conduct of worship services.

    For many Catholics, like myself, this was not a matter of hewing to orthodoxy but of religious freedom. Therefore, we abandoned our customary stance of opposing much of what the church does in order to support it on this narrow point.

    In short, the author has missed the point. I note that she attends Catholic University. I am sure that the school still teaches courses in logic; perhaps she should take one.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:14 am |
  13. TakeChargeOfYOURLIFe

    I did NOT read this fools article you see. ITS HER BODY SHE SHOULD PAY for her own contraceptives.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • Homie

      I totally agree with your comment.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  14. J

    If you want contraceptives, pay for it yourself. Buy your own condoms. Buy your own food. Pay your own bill. What's next, stay on your parent's healthcare until your 30.. they are raising a nation of man-children and women-children.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • 21k

      hopefully you do not plan on collecting soc sec or medicare, because a group insurance policy where kids stay on their parents' policy is THE SAME FRIGGIN THING, you nitwit. since when is it dumb to get the best deal you can on insurance by joining a group policy? you can't be a republican because we know how capitalism works.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:16 am |
    • Todd Beaucoudray

      You couldn't afford your medical costs if an insurance company didn't bail you out.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:16 am |
  15. Quagmire

    Heheh alllllright! I'm glad she's on birth control because she'll need it when she meets me! Giggidy!!!

    February 11, 2012 at 9:11 am |
  16. Gail D

    Catholic Church does not employ non-catholics, if possible.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Heather

      Gail, that would be against the 14th Amendment, in which is protects someone against not being hired because of religion, and in your example, the Catholic church or organization not hiring a non-Catholic. It doesn't happen, and would be against the law.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  17. Linda

    For all these men that are criticizing this woman. When you get the horrible periods I do, then you can criticize. When you get the horrible mood swings I do, then criticize. I did not use birth control for years, mainly because I am a prude. When I met my husband, i got them. WHAT THE HELL WAS I WAITING FOR! After 25 years of never knowing when I was getting my period, heavy, heavy periods, horrible cramps, horrible mood swings, and countless accidents, I finally was able to control this awful thing called a period. I am on it right now, so don't mess with me. Oh, and I am Catholic. It has nothing to do with being left or right or middle. It has to do with me being a woman. These old minded BISHOPS who have never had a period need to get over it. Stop messing with WOMEN'S HEALTH!

    February 11, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Homie

      I am glad you found a solution to your bloody problem and feel it's your right to use contraceptives as you wish. Just pay for them yourself and if your health care provider won't supply them to you go to one that does. Don't force those that don't want to pay for it to pay for it and don't force those that don't believe in it to do it!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Mike

      Sorry to hear about your painful periods.

      I think the issue is the government mandating employers to pay for something. Especially when it is something that goes against that employer's beliefs. For example, and similar to your situation, I am a very light sleeper and don't sleep well at night. Because of that, should the government mandate that every employer pay for all of their employees to receive pharmaceuticals to help them sleep?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Michele

      I get nasty periods too...have been all my life. Suck it up or toughen up like I have, or if you can't...PAY FOR IT YOURSELF! I don't expect people to pay for my Advil PM b/c I'm a bad sleeper. I also never expected anyone to pay for Ambien in order to sleep when I treid it. I had a COPAY. Now you'll have no COPAY for your cramps, and not only am I going to pay for whatever it is that I take for my cramps, but I get to pay for your cramping issues too!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Todd Beaucoudray

      Linda, not all men think like uncaring misogynists. As a paraplegic, I'm well aware of having needs others don't understand. You have men like me to support your rights.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  18. Rideitout

    I don't understand the uproar about the use of birth control. It should not be subject to the scrutiny of old men who have never had a relationship with a woman. The family unit is based upon love and fidelity. The use of birth control does nothing to change the dynamic of a loving marriage. It may help keep a family strong and healthy by eliminating the economic stress of raising children the family cannot adequately care for. In addition, it eliminates the predicament of choosing between faith and having an abortion.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:10 am |
    • Michele

      That's fine...as long as you pay for your choice in contraceptive methods YOURSELF!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  19. Sue

    TO Ms. Morthole: I have respect for you as a person but I disagree completely. You DON"T speak for the Catholic church,my friend. You don't speak for me as a Catholic. Why should I be interested in your views? I pray that you come to realize why the church does not believe in contraception.

    TO CNN

    Why is the point of your article and rhetoric? Are you going to allow a Catholic person who BELIEVES and follows the Catholic rules to answer this person tomorow with opposing views? I would bet not.
    You have your own agenda, and it's obvious.
    I made the mistake of reading CNN this morning, when I long ago switched to FOX News.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • lathebiosas

      Fox News, I would have never guessed.............

      February 11, 2012 at 9:18 am |
    • Enzyme Kinetics

      Good luck finding a Catholic woman in America who disagrees. 98% of them have made an educated and intelligent decision to use birth control.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • Visitor

      Yes you did make a mistake reading an opposing view to yours. Run back to Fox now where all is well.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:08 am |
  20. John Peck

    I'm not a catholic. Can someone please understand why so many catholics stay in a church which takes positions they cannot either support or live? How are these bishops chosen? What would happen if catholics who think birth control is acceptable stopped contributing financially to the catholic church?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • Mike

      Do you contribute to a political party? Do you agree with every single position of that political party? People join and contribute to groups with beliefs similar to theirs, but there are always some differences.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:17 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.