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An NPR article on the debate about contraceptive coverage makes the following claim:

In fact, 98 percent of Catholic women use birth control at some point in their lifetimes.

Is this claim true?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Ezra Klein at The Washington Post comments "Not Quite" in his article.

Jones’s study does not find that 98 percent of all Catholic women have used contraceptives. What it does, however, bear out is the claim that many have made with this statistic: that sexually-active, Catholic women do tend to use contraceptives at the same rate as their non-Catholic counterparts.

The chart that is displayed there shows closer to an 89% rate amongst catholic women. The data claiming the 98% rate came from a Guttmacher Institute study.

Only 2% of Catholic women rely on natural family planning; even among Catholic women who attend church once a month or more, only 2% rely on this method (not shown). Sixty-eight percent of Catholic women use highly effective methods: sterilization (32%, including 24% using female sterilization,) the pill or another hormonal method (31%) and the IUD (5%).

The main difference between the two studies is that one is focused on sexually active women who do not want to get pregnant (that CAN get pregnant) versus all women who may or may not be sexually active, or may actually want to get pregnant.

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There's actually a problem with this answer. On page 4 of the Guttmacher Institute study it says: "Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same, 98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women." According to the Guttmacher Institute study, in addition to the fact that about 89% of sexually active Catholic women who were not trying to get pregnant, 98% of all Catholic women have use birth control. –  Tacroy Jun 8 '12 at 4:14
    
@Tacroy Isn't that what I said? That the 98% figure comes from the Guttmacher study and it is sampling ina slightly different way than the Jones study? It's 98% of that 89%. –  Brightblades Jun 8 '12 at 11:31
    
It might be, but that's not the way I read it. The wording seems to imply that the Guttmacher Institute report is misleading. It implies that the 98% stat came from taking 100% minus the 2% that use NFP to get 98%. The fact that 98% of Catholic women who have every had sex, whether or not they're currently sexually active, have used contraception is true. –  Tacroy Jun 8 '12 at 15:10
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According to the Guttmacher Institute the answer is yes - 98% of sexually experienced Catholic women have used artificial contraception.

Among all women who have had sex, 99% have ever used a contraceptive method other than natural family planning. This figure is virtually the same, 98%, among sexually experienced Catholic women. Guttmacher Institute, April 2011, page 4

This study also finds:

Only 2% of Catholic women rely on natural family planning; even among Catholic women who attend church once a month or more, only 2% rely on this method (not shown). Sixty-eight percent of Catholic women use highly effective methods: sterilization (32%, including 24% using female sterilization,) the pill or another hormonal method (31%) and the IUD (5%).

Supplementary table to Figure 3 from Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use

Adding it all up, of the Catholic women surveyed who were sexually active, but avoiding pregnancy, 87% were using some form of contraception, 2% were using natural family planning, and 11% were relying on what I can only imagine is "pull and pray."

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