Medically reviewed by Sophia Yen, MD, MPH – Written by Pandia Health Editorial Team
Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have been trying to control their fertility through various means. In ancient Greece and Rome, women drank juices made from the Silphium plant to prevent pregnancy. Scholars speculate that the use of the plant may have contributed to Rome’s low birth rate, and the plant was so popular that it went extinct.
Fortunately, women in the modern era have access to safe, highly effective, and affordable contraceptives that are in no danger of going extinct. The pill has been around since the 1960s, but although it’s used by more than 62% of women of reproductive age worldwide, the pill and other forms of birth control are met with much controversy.
Debates are often couched in terms of economics or politics, but at the heart of the debates centered around contraceptive use is religion. To muddy the waters even more, beliefs among adherents of different religions can vary in each branch within the same faith. Today’s article will explore how the world’s major faiths view birth control and contraceptive use.
What are the world’s major religions?
According to some estimates, there are more than 4000 different religions and faiths in the entire world. But, the four largest religions are Christianity, followed by Islam, Catholicism, and Judaism. Currently, the number of followers for each religion are estimated to be:
- 2.4 billion followers of Christianity
- 1.8 billion followers of Islam
- 15 million followers of Judaism
Within these four major religions, there are numerous different sects and denominations, each practicing their own set of beliefs. These four major religions are all monotheistic, meaning they believe in one singular god or deity. While each religion may have an official stance on birth control or contraceptive use, individual followers, and even some separate denominations within the faith may have different views and practices that are outside of the official doctrine.
What is the official stance on birth control and contraceptives in Christianity?
Christianity, as one of the largest monotheistic religions in the world, is comprised of five major denominations, and even those have smaller denominations within them. Catholicism is also a branch of Christianity, but in the 1500s, the Catholic Church was divided, and Protestantism and Anglicanism formed within the umbrella religion of Christianity.
Anglicanism and Protestantism are the two most prominent Christian denominations in the U.S. The official stance of both faiths is that birth control is permissible because it is not expressly forbidden within scripture. However, these denominations preach that it is critical for followers to use birth control within a mindset that is biblically aligned.
Scripture states that children are a gift from the Lord, and that using birth control as a follower of Christ while having an attitude that is opposed to what scripture states is wrong. However, more lenient positions on contraceptive use within the Christian church are relatively new developments. Before the 1930s, all Christian denominations adhered to the Catholic Church’s official stance on birth control.
What is the Catholic Church’s view on birth control and religion?
Today, the Catholic Church is the only Christian denomination that adheres to a historical standard on birth control, which is that any form of contraceptive use is against their religion. This includes:
- The Pill and all hormonal methods of birth control
- All barrier methods
The Catholic Church officially believes that birth control is a violation of natural law, and that sexual intercourse is for the express purpose of procreation. Any pleasure derived from sexual intercourse is a by-product of procreation and is intended to strengthen the loving bond between husband and wife, further believed that these bonds create the ideal environment for raising children.
However, it is interesting to note that surveys on birth control use in the U.S. have found that 77% of married women use a form of contraceptive, versus 42% of never-married women. In addition, 89% of Catholic women use a contraceptive, while 90% of Protestant women use one. Even though the Protestant denominations are more lenient on birth control use, rates of contraceptive use are relatively the same between Catholic women and Protestant women.
What is Islam’s official stance on birth control?
Islam’s official stance on birth control is that all forms of it are permissible if both parties consent to its use. While this official stance may seem very liberal, it’s critical to understand that in Islam, if the husband does not consent to the wife’s use of birth control, she is not permitted to use it.
Studies on American women who practice Islam found that women who identified as Sunni Muslim were less likely to use all forms of contraception than Shia Muslims. Shia Muslim women were more likely to use the birth control pill than other types of contraceptives.
What is Judaism’s official stance on birth control?
The majority of rabbinic authorities believe and teach their followers that women may use contraception, but only certain forms of it. In Judaism, contraceptive methods must enable sexual intercourse to occur and happen without a barrier naturally. So, the pill and other forms of hormonal birth control are generally permitted. More liberal branches of Judaism allow all types of birth control. 90% of all surveyed practicing Jewish women use a contraceptive method.
Although birth control has been in existence for thousands of years, it is still the center of much debate. Since the invention of the pill, that debate has only increased. As the U.S. attempts to change their healthcare system, these debates will continue. As long as healthcare coverage remains tied to a person’s employer, women of reproductive age who work for a religious entity may find themselves unwittingly drawn into the controversies surrounding the pill and other forms of contraceptive.
Fortunately, there are many different types of effective and affordable birth control that women can obtain without the input of a religiously-affiliated employer. Are you curious about what type of birth control can work for you? The doctors at Pandia Health are standing by to answer any questions you may have about contraceptive use. Please sign up with Pandia Health today and have safe, affordable birth control delivered straight to your door.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article intend to inform and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Pandia Health, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.