Concern about protecting Americans' right to religious liberty has put a new focus on birth control during this presidential-election season.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is fighting an Obama-administration mandate that requires employer-provided insurance to pay for contraceptives, some of which certain groups consider to be abortion-inducing drugs.
Although the mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exempts churches, it applies to institutions such as schools and hospitals that are religiously affiliated. The bishops say this violates the constitutional right to religious freedom.
Some faith groups, including the Southern Baptist Convention and the Orthodox (Jewish) Union, have rallied behind the bishops, saying the fight is about religious freedom, not birth control. Birth-control pills contain hormones that prevent the release of an egg into the womb and cause a buildup of mucus that inhibits sperm. They also cause the uterine lining to thin, so if an egg and sperm do meet, the fertilized egg is less likely to attach. This possibility has caused some people who are against abortion to oppose the pill.
Here's a look at what leaders of various faith institutions say about birth control. (All adherence numbers are for the Columbus metropolitan area in 2010 as counted by the Association of Religious Data Archives.)
Roman Catholic Church
--Contraception is "objectively immoral."
--In the 2006 teaching statement "Married Love and the Gift of Life," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said couples "should never act to suppress or curtail the life-giving power given by God that is an integral part of what they pledged to each other in their marriage vows." The bishops said "that every act of intercourse must remain open to life and that contraception is objectively immoral."
Natural family planning -- having sex during the infertile times of a woman's cycle or after childbearing years -- is acceptable. However, some Catholics have encouraged church leaders to approve birth control. Interest groups include Catholics for Choice.
A Public Religion Research Institute poll released in February found that 52 percent of Catholics said religiously affiliated colleges and hospitals should have to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception; 45 percent of Catholics disagreed.
United Methodist Church
--Couples have a "right and duty" to control conception.
--In a "Responsible Parenthood" resolution most recently revised in 2008, the church said: "Each couple has the right and the duty prayerfully and responsibly to control conception according to their circumstances. They are, in our view, free to use those means of birth control considered medically safe."
It says decisions on whether to become pregnant should include considering one's ability to provide for the child's mental, physical and spiritual needs and also the effect on quality of life for family and society.
Southern Baptist Convention
--"Prudent planning" is OK.
--In a 2001 interview for the documentary In a Just World produced by the Duncan Entertainment Group and WTTW-TV in Chicago, Richard Land, the president of the convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said: "In terms of regulating the number of children and how far apart they are, we would leave that as a moral decision for the couple. ... We would be opposed to couples using means of birth control that allows conception to take place and then causes spontaneous abortions."
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