Is contraception a moral issue or a fundamental right? What are the views of different religions and health practitioners on this matter, and which belief system should one follow?
The term contraception refers to different methods used to prevent pregnancies. The availability and the regulation of the different contraceptives varies from country to country. These contraceptive methods have been widely used by individuals across the world since the 1960s. Health experts are strong advocates of using contraceptives.
However, despite its wide acceptance and the scientific significance proven by health organisations and doctors, the moral issues on the usage of contraception still prevail. This article will try to navigate the following questions: (a) Is contraception a moral issue? (b) What are the views of different religions and health practitioners on contraception? (c) Is contraception a fundamental right? and (d) Which belief system should one follow?
Is contraception a moral issue?
The “society” that we are a part of largely dictates the ways and norms of how one should live. In South Asian countries, abstaining from any sexual activity until a person is lawfully married is said to be a “moral” act. The use of contraception provides individuals the freedom to indulge in sexual activities without worrying about getting pregnant, and this is considered “immoral.” Often, individuals who want to access contraceptives must gain their partners’ permission, and not following this protocol is considered against societal norms. Importantly, individuals who have a vagina are primary agents in the reproductive domain, and they are tasked with the responsibility of effective contraception use. Any failure during this process and the brunt of an unwanted pregnancy are born by them. Women are blamed and often looked down upon if faced with an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy, whereas in reality, the responsibility should be shared equally, and their partners should be supportive throughout the abortion process.
What does religion say about contraception?
There are around 4,000 different religions around the world. Despite differences in the practices and preachings of these religions, there seems to be a cross-unifying tenet that “children are gifts from God.” According to many faiths, the purpose of sexual intercourse should be procreation, and as such, contraception is considered “anti-life.” We should note that every religion has different ideologies on contraception.
In Islam, contraception may be used within the institution of marriage (1). In Hinduism, contraception is regarded as a personal choice for women (2). Christianity is broadly split into three branches – Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox. All of them have a different belief system on the use of contraception. For instance, Roman Catholics believe that abstinence and the rhythm method are the only accepted methods for birth spacing (3). Further, it is worth noting that individual followers of these religions may have their own outlook and beliefs on the use of contraceptive methods.
Is contraception a human right?
At the 1968 International Conference on Human rights, family planning became a human right. Every person should have the right to freely decide if he/she wishes to embrace parenthood. If individuals decide to have children, it is their right to freely decide when to have them. Therefore, the fact that contraception can be used for engaging in sexual activity without the burden of procreation is not only completely acceptable but a fundamental right.
What do healthcare practitioners say about contraception?
Contraceptive methods are convenient, simple, and a safe and easy way to prevent pregnancy. The prevention of unintended pregnancies helps to reduce the risk of maternal deaths. Using contraceptives also allows individuals to safely indulge in sexual activities without worrying about procreation or contracting sexually transmitted diseases and infections. A few hormonal contraceptive methods could have side effects like headaches, delayed periods, and breast tenderness. Consulting a medical practitioner for the dosage of these contraceptive options is highly advised.
As contraceptives are a part of reproductive and human rights, health experts consider their role extremely vital in spreading awareness and helping citizens make informed choices on the usage of these methods.
So is contraception about morality or choice?
Every individual has the right to decide what contraception he/she wishes to use. We need to question the religious beliefs that we grew up with and stick with ones that feel right for us. Remember, one belief system does not apply to everyone. In this vein, every individual has the right to decide which contraceptive method is best suited for him/her. This choice is often made easier by having access to nonjudgemental and safe spaces like online sexual and reproductive health websites, where one can access accurate, appropriate, and stigma-free contraception information, and being able to consult with a healthcare practitioner when needed.
Note: For more information on birth control, see our Comparison of Family Planning Methods section.
- Hasna F. Islam. “Social traditions and family planning.” ANS, Adv Nurs Sci, 2003, 37(2):181–97.
- Iyer S. “Religion and the decision to use contraception in India.” J Sci Study Relig, 2002, 41(4):711–22.
- Schenker JG, Rabenou V. “Family planning: cultural and religious perspectives.” Hum Reprod, 1993, 8(6):969–76.
- “Moral Case for Contraception.” BBC, www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/contraception/in_favour.shtml. Accessed June 2022.
- “Religious and Cultural Influences on Contraception.” JOGC, www.jogc.com/article/S1701-2163(16)32736-0/pdf. Accessed June 2022.
- “Family Planning/Contraception Methods.” WHO, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/family-planning-contraception. Accessed June 2022.
- “Birth Control and Religion.” Pandia Health, www.pandiahealth.com/resources/birth-control-religion/. Accessed June 2022.
- “Side Effects of Hormonal Contraceptives.” AAFP, www.aafp.org/afp/2010/1215/p1509.html. Accessed June 2022.
About the Author: Pragati Khabiya is an independent consultant, passionate about putting the tools of communication, advocacy, and facilitation to work for the development sector. She only discovered what she is passionate about after spending time travelling by herself and volunteering at remote organisations in India. She believes in the process of unlearning and likes to read/watch feministic films and books.
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