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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. Diana

    When the pill has been used for medical reasons and you choose to do so, that's fine, as long as it's not being used also as a contraceptive. The pill causes abortion and many people don't know that. This is the biggest reason why we are against it. This needs to be explained to the public. It's been only for some 40 years that the pill has been around. The pill also causes breast cancer and we've seen a rise in that. I wonder why...

    We cannot allow a nation to tell us that we have to provide others with things that help them only have a certain number of children. It is not a part of the catholic teaching. They obviously didn't teach you well and that has been a major mistake within the catholic faith in America.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • arlojones

      This issue is just demonstrating how bizarre Catholic beliefs are. It is a cult.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • El Flaco

      If a hospital secretary, who is a Protestant, goes to Walgreen's to pick up a packet of birth control pills, what Catholic has been denied religious freedom?

      Who are you to argue that the Protestant secretary should arrange her personal life to please a Bishop?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • Citizen

      You are incredibly misinformed.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • El Flaco

      The Church also teaches that the man is the head of and spokesman for the family.

      Diana, why don't you go to the kitchen and make your husband's breakfast. Let him do the speaking for your family.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:49 am |
    • Michele

      I am against all of this contraceptive stuff simply due to the financial impact it's going to have on the entire population in raised premiums where you'll end up paying more than what your copay would have been for the contraceptive. You are misinformed about the pill...the pill doesn't cause abortion...the pill raises estrogen levels so you won't ovulate. This is why I won't take it as estrogen is highly linked to breast cancer (I agree with you on that one.) The Morning Ater Pill seems to be what you are referencing in your post. This too does not cause abortion in the sense that you think it does. To put in simple terms ... it does not allow a fertilized ovum (zygote) to attach to the uterine wall. I don't believe life begins at fertilization...there's a huge process b/w that and when a fetus becomes viable outside the womb. Either way, I don't want to get stuck paying for anyone else's choice in contraceptive methods. I also don't want to pay for it b/c of all these women that whine and complain about bad periods. I've been dealing with it since I'm 13 yrs old. People need to learn to suck it up and toughen up, or if the cant, then they need to pay for it themselves.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Michele

      @ El Flaco...the Protestant secretary needs to realize that her employer is a Catholic organization which does not believe in contraceptives, and they (as well as ANY employer) should not be forced into paying for services, as this is what it is, a service, not a medical necessity...yes, even for those women that use it to regulate periods, get rid of cramps heavy bleeding, etc. There's other ways to handle a lousy week of discomfort opposed to drugging yourself every day. The Protestant Secretary has two obvious choices. 1) If you don't like the plan that your employer offers, go get your own plan. 2) Find another job whose employer provides coverage better suited to your needs! It's simple!

      February 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Flinders, the butler

      Diana,
      STop getting you facts from EWTN. The fact that increased cancer rates are observed in the cohort who also use BC, in NO WAY proves, that BC is the CAUSE of the malignancies. Take some logic and science, if your bishop allows it, which I doubt.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • El Flaco

      Michelle, the 'freedom' to purchase your own plan or to find another job is no freedom at all. The secretary cannot afford to purchase her own plan and she can't get another job. It takes fifty weeks for the average unemployed person to find a new job and the new job is typically for less pay. There are 5 unemployed people for every job opening.

      You may as well give her the "freedom" to invent a fabulous new product in her garage and sell the patent for millions of dollars.

      When Conservatives tell me I'm 'free' to do something, it's always something I can't do.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Melissa

      The pill does not cause abortions. Don't you have any learnin'. You truly must question what others tell you. Think for yourself, do research.

      February 11, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The pill does not "cause abortion." Knock off the ignorance and lies.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Melissa

      The pill prevents the egg from being released, so how are you going to get pregnant? I don't want to be mean. This is really sad though. Take this opportunity to learn something. Don't take my word for it, research yourself. I know what it feels like to be afraid to discover that the people you trust are filling you with crap.

      February 11, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
    • Melissa

      If you do go back in the kitchen and make your master some breakfast, make me some too! I like soft fluffy scrambled eggs, with freshly ground pepper and a delicious cup of smooth coffee would go nice. Chop Chop !

      February 11, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
  2. El Flaco

    You will all be thrilled to know that I have come up with the perfect solution to this problem.

    Health insurance is paid for by both the employer and the employee.

    Let us instruct the insurance companies to keep those funds in separate accounts: one containing employer contributions and the other containing employee contributions.

    Let birth control be paid for exclusively from the employee's money, not by the employer's money.

    Problem solved; case closed!

    February 11, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Michele

      You're CLUELESS to how insurance works. The money that you and your employer pay go to premiums which pay for EVERYONE'S care. Your premium paid by you and your employer is not "set aside" for just you and your family when needed. If that was the case, when you leave a job, all of the money left over from your premium would be returned to you. Once again, if your employer's plan doesn't meet your needs, you're always free to contact any insurance company and pick up your own private health coverage for you and/or your family, OR, you're free to change your job to find employment with an employer whose plan better suits your needs.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • El Flaco

      Nonsense. Insurance companies can simply keep employee contributions in one account and employer contributions in another account. Regulations can insist that all birth control be paid for out of employee contributions. Therefore, no Catholic money will be used to pay for birth control.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  3. TakeChargeOfYOURLIFe

    I know more men in there late 30 and early 40 who have told me they will never ever marry because women now days think the world owes them everything they want. How true it is may be this is why the founders did not want them to vote.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:39 am |
    • ZZeyn

      Alrighty then!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Citizen

      The founders also wanted you to learn how to spell.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:50 am |
  4. arlojones

    The only reason people are knotted up about this issue is because they have an allegiance to ancient fairytales that can't be reconciled with science and modern society. There is no dilemma. People need to grow up and reject their brainwashing. There is no invisible man controlling your thoughts. The sooner you come to reality, the more you'll be able to fully appreciate and enjoy reality.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  5. JohnR

    Compelling people to pay for something they think is wrong is itself wrong. I consider the Catholic position on contraception idiotic, but it is their right to be idiotic. To those who totally don't care when other people's rights are abridged: What goes around comes around. This mandate would have set a bad precedent.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:36 am |
    • ZZeyn

      I guess I learned a thing or two from this issue; a non-Catholic should not work for a Catholic organization, such as a hospital or university if they want to receive the full benefits of health care coverage in US – what the rest of the employers are providing. I still don't understand how they can insist on this though, since even the Vatican had approved the use of condoms back in 2010. When will women be equal to men? Isn't it about time?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:41 am |
  6. Tony

    I totally agree with this person. Bishops worldwide have been unreasonable with this matter. They should concentrate on there own house, such as child molestation, which I think is more of a problem than this.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  7. mike

    she misses the whole point.

    Agreeing with the RC stance is not the issue. Forcing the RC, via a government edict, is.

    If within the RC you want to fight to have its stance changed, then this article applies. But, even if the RC were to change its stance, the issue of making it a requirement is still there.

    Take a more simple approach. Perhaps a company wants to provide insurance to its employees, but not cover obesity counciling, or lap bands, etc. These are all (with exception of course) personal choice issues. The company should be free to not cover that particular type of procedure if it so chooses. Perhaps it is a fitness center, which believes in nutrition and working out. That should be their right.

    The whole point is that Government shoudl not be able to tell you as an individual or employer what you should or should not offer in terms of insurance. Period.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • Ben

      Mike, you're absolutely right that the issue here should be government getting involved in our civil liberties. It used to be that the Republican Party stood for less government. Unfortunately, now they stand for less government when it conveniently supports some ridiculously archaic religiously based view. Funny, how they want government to tell doctors they can't perform abortions, but it's not ok to tell companies they need to provide certain benefits to their employees. Let's make it perfectly clear, Roe v. Wade doesn't tell any doctor they have to perform an abortion, it simply makes it the parties involved choice. Choice being the key word here. Why is the Republican party Pro-Choice when it comes to letting organizations chose what benefits to provide, but anti-choice (incorrectly dubbed pro-life by zealots) on abortion? The real issue is the constant hypocrisy from both the Republican and Democratic Parties. It's time America stopped hiding behind the bible, and came out of the dark ages. Science is the only truth, and if we truly care about human survival, Fact not Novels should be what guide our decision making.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:54 am |
  8. Teresa

    Regarding menstrual problems: treating with birth control pills merely masks the condition causing them and does not treat the condition. Please read Fertility Cycles & Nutrition by Marilyn M. Shannon.

    To understand why the Catholic Church is against contraception (and why all other Christian churches opposed it until the 1930's), please do some researcch at some reputable places. Search on the internet for One More Soul website, CCLI, and Catholic Answers.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:35 am |
  9. CMoses

    How can a 22-year old be considered a "life-long" Catholic?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Al Russell

      Um, because she's ALIVE and has been Catholic the entire time??? Need help with any other deeply confounding dilemma's?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • David M Schultz

      perhaps because she has been a Catholic her entire life

      February 11, 2012 at 9:46 am |
    • Samantha

      Because as long as she's been alive, she's been a Catholic.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:49 am |
  10. arlojones

    Religious dogma has no place in modern society. It needs to be universally ignored.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  11. C

    This "woman" and the other "Catholics" who taught her that birth control and the catholic faith can exist harmoniously are not Catholics – plain and simple. This twisted view by practicing Catholics is more damaging to our faith than ANYTHING Hussein Obama could ever say against us. ~sigh~

    February 11, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • arlojones

      Welcome to 1500.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:32 am |
    • Steve

      How harmonious would the church be without contributions from members who practice birth control. Other than the rythm method.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Rideitout

      Crawl out out of the middle ages and get a grip on reality.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • Al Russell

      Right, so just kick out all of those doctors, lawyers, politicians, educators, scientist, economists, etc... and keep your entire faith limited to folks like the family down the street with 13 kids and a soul crushed mom that never leaves the house. Anyone else who's catholic and not "married" will simply catch nasty STDs or die of AIDS. Satisfied?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Todd Beaucoudray

      You're making a joke?

      February 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  12. Mary

    The Church has always allowed birth control for medical reasons so that is a empty point. Though when I was in college and my doctor suggested "the pill" to regulate my cycle, he prescribed an alternative that was just as effective.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Alex

      Mary, what do you think a birth control pill contains? Hormones, and the alternative you have mentioned are the same hormones but in a different packing. It seems that you have brainwashed yourself 🙂

      February 11, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  13. Wendy Baustian

    Gosh...I hope none of you good Catholics need a divorce. Why don't they spend their time trying to save marriages, rather than trying to dictate what happens within the marriage?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Al Russell

      Good point. In this matter, like so many, the hypocrisy is rank. How many Catholics divorce? I'd like to see statistics on this. The "Bishops" will look the other way when it's convenient to do so, then when it involves real issues with women's health, they use it to make some over-the-top political statement. That's all this really is. If they really cared about sticking to the letter of their religion we wouldn't see them overlooking so many other obvious practices that run contrary to the Church's teachings. In short, to have any credibility on this issue they need to immediately ex-communicate any Catholic that's ever gotten a divorce, worked on Sunday, etc... Isn't there a passage in the Bible that claims God doesn't distinguish between "sins," that all are equal in his eyes? Then start casting them stones folks.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:55 am |
  14. Rideitout

    Catholics seem to live in a pergatory of fear and guilt fostered by the church. "No, you can't use birth control and no you must never have an abortion." If you do, you risk hell. Then, you have priests who molest altar boys and still have a free ride to heaven. Does any of this make sense to an educated person?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  15. Remember

    Fine – but buy and PAY for your own birth control young lady! I'm not paying for you to sleep around. I abstained.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:31 am |
    • Md

      Troll.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:38 am |
  16. Jen

    A friend of mine (no longer Catholic) worked at a Catholic private school as a biology teacher. She suffers from severe endometriosis and the only prescription medication that was not covered (fully or partially) by her health insurance plan was birth control pills. (She has had surgery twice because of the disease.) The type she had to take was extremely expensive since they are specifically designed for patients suffering from endometriosis or other hormone imbalance/female reproductive issues. She was not using them for contraception but still had to pay close to $100 a month for the medication. She is now a happy stay-at-home mom, a Presbyterian, and is able to get the medication she NEEDS through her husband's insurance plan.

    Also, as a non-Catholic woman who had to take birth control pills starting at 14 (due to anovulatory issues), I find the Catholic church's policy to be an outdated one. Children are a gift from God (my husband and I are currently expecting our first) but some women may never get to become mother's due to reproductive issues that can be helped through the use of oral contraceptives. If a health problem existed for men and the only medication that could help the issue also stopped sperm production, what would be the position of the Catholic church?

    February 11, 2012 at 9:29 am |
    • Mary

      that;s a nonsensical argument b/c a compentent doctor can prescribe hormones that have the same effect.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Homie

      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 them and don't force those that don't believe in it, to believe as you do!

      February 11, 2012 at 9:44 am |
    • Jen

      I was put on a single hormone to treat my health problem (anovulatory bleeding) and almost hemorrhaged to death. Sometimes the hormones in oral contraceptives are the only thing that works. I was actually in danger of losing having to have a full hysterectomy done at the age of 14 due to this issue and thanks to good 'ol birth control pills, I was able to keep my girl parts and reproduce normally. Why do health insurance plans cover ED?

      February 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
  17. TakeChargeOfYOURLIFe

    Tampons are a right.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:27 am |
  18. Homie

    I am glad you found a solution to your 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 them and don't force those that don't believe in it, to believe as you do!

    February 11, 2012 at 9:25 am |
    • Biff

      This argument is completely ignorant. Speaking purely from a who has to pay perspective – birth control is FAR cheaper than 9 months of prenatal care and a hospital delivery, which these days is in excess of $10,000. Take your head out of the sand and then go in and get it checked.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:43 am |
  19. M

    Should we congratulate her on sleeping around? Let her pay for her own pills. Why should I pay for medication for her to sleep around? Why doesn't CNN interview somebody who DOESN'T contracept. Obviously, it's easy to find someone who does. Why don't they actually put the spotlight on somebody who doesn't. My husband and I don't contracept. We only have 2 kids, not 14 like everybody thinks we would.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:24 am |
    • Citizen

      I suggest you read the news and get acquainted with the actual requirements. Your precious money is not going to pay for anyone's birth control. Insurance companies will be required to offer coverage for women who do want it. Not everyone wants to live your particular lifestyle. And I suggest you remain consistent and ensure that you aren't "paying" for viagra coverage or vasectomies for men.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • Gary W

      M – Plans with contraception are less expensive than those without. So, in essence, Karalen is saving you money – using birth control costs you less, not more.
      Considering this, do you still strongly disagree with her letter?

      February 11, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Biff

      If you don't pay for the pills your insurance plan will pay for the delivery, which will be slightly more expensive. From an economic perspective, covering the pill makes incredible sense. Good for you and your husband on not using birth control, we're very impressed that you only have 2 kids. If they become as closed minded as you, I'm glad there aren't more.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • nightsun2k7

      So then whats the difference. Obviously you're taking some form of steps to make sure you don't have unwanted children. Who cares if it's a pill or just being good at the math of it all. Don't tell me it's the drug itself. I'm quite certain you take a pain killer when you have a headache. If it's just a matter of doing the math (which is not 99.9% like the pill is, you've just gotten very lucky) then the end result is the same. You've purposely stopped an unwanted birth. Isn't god going to be just as ticked? There then lies the hypocrisy of it all "i'm not going to take the pill because god says not to, however i'm going to take other steps cause he doesn't say anything about not doing math to get the same result" However, he did say "be fruitfull and multiply" he just didn't tell you how you were going to pay for them all.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:52 am |
    • Samantha

      M – I'm sure you and your husband have a very exciting marriage.

      February 11, 2012 at 9:55 am |
    • R

      M, Did you even read the article? She is not on the pill to "sleep around" she is on it for control of her periods. Besides that let's all be real it is 2012 not 1500 and people are not getting married at 16 years old. they are getting married as late as 30 – 40 years old. To expect people to wait for marrage is kind of like believing in the tooth fairy.

      February 11, 2012 at 10:02 am |
  20. scatheist

    Is there a rational case to be against contraception? No, just religious nonsense.

    February 11, 2012 at 9:23 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.