Figure That 98% of Catholic Women Use Birth Control Debunked

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 13, 2012   |   2:17PM   |   Washington, DC

Abortion advocates and the White House are using a misleading figure to defend the new mandate the Obama administration put in place that requires insurance companies to offer birth control drugs that may cause abortions at no cost.

Both Obama administration officials and pro-abortion advocates like Planned Parenthood and NARAL are telling their members that 98% of Catholic women use contraception, a myth based on a misreading of a study published by the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, a former Planned Parenthood affiliate.

Lydia McGrew has published a lengthy refutation of the figure that is drawing praise for its insight and accuracy.

“The survey was limited to women between 15-44. Ah, well, that explains how we weren’t including the elderly, but it also means that the silly “percent of all Catholic women” thing should be chucked out right from the beginning,” she notes.

McGrew indicates the Guttmacher study also “excluded any women who were a) not sexually active, where that is defined as having had sexual intercourse in the past three months (there go all the nuns), b) postpartum, c) pregnant, or d) trying to get pregnant. In other words, the study was specifically designed  (as the prose discussion on p. 8 makes explicit, in bold print) to include only women for whom a pregnancy would be unintended and who are “at risk” of becoming pregnant.”

She continues:  “Whether or not it included women who considered themselves neither trying nor not trying to get pregnant (there are some such women in the world) is unclear. It’s also unclear whether it included women who have had their reproductive organs removed because of some medical problem. Presumably the study was intended to exclude women in both of these categories, as neither would count as a woman “at risk of an unintended pregnancy.”

McGrew writes:  “Now, consider what all of this means as far as the representativeness of the sample for Catholic women. Surely there are a fair number of Catholic women between 15-44 who are not “at risk of an unintended pregnancy” for various reasons. It is plausible that this number is higher among Catholics than among non-Catholics. For one thing, a faithful Catholic woman in this age category who is not married is supposed to be remaining celibate. Hence she won’t fall into the “at-risk” category, and by the same token she won’t have any use for the “services” that the Obama administration is mandating be provided. Similarly, married Catholic women are probably more likely not to be attempting to avoid pregnancy, even using Natural Family Planning, than non-Catholic women. One would think they are also more likely to be pregnant or postpartum. And so on and so forth. In short, the deliberate design of the study to cover only women who, at the time of the study, were having sexual intercourse while regarding a pregnancy as unintended would be likely to make it unrepresentative of Catholics and particularly unrepresentative of devout Catholics. Yet the study is now being cited to show the percentage of Catholic women generally who are not following the teaching of the Catholic Church in this area! What is wrong with this picture?”

Tom Hoopes of CatholicVote reviewed both McGrew’s numbers and the initial study Guttmacher conducted. [related]

“The results are even more skewed if you ask people at the top of a survey what religion they are. People who have never darkened the door of a Catholic Church will happily mark “Catholic” on such a survey. The behavior they report will count for or against Catholics the same regardless of their actual contact with Catholicism,” he writes. “This particular survey even admits that less than a third of its “Catholic” respondents even go to Mass once a week.”

“So, what do we know from the start: We aren’t dealing with practicing Catholics. In fact, a two-thirds majority of the Catholics in the survey are not eligible to receive communion, according to the U.S. bishops (see page 9), since they skip their Sunday obligation,” Hoopes continues.

“The most shocking news, though, is that the White House is spreading false information about Catholicism in order to provide cover as it removes religious liberties for Catholic organizations,” he concludes. “White House: Retract this statement and correct the record. Stop misinforming the public about my religion for your purposes.”