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."
More recently, he told WFAA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth that he does not believe that "prudent planning" goes against God's will as long as the methods used "do not cause the fertilized egg to abort" and "do not bar having children altogether" without a medical reason.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
--Supports "development and use" of birth control
--In a statement most recently amended and adopted in 2009, the Churchwide Assembly said it " supports the development and use of medical products, birth control and initiatives that support fulfilling and responsible sexuality.
"This church also recognizes the important role that the availability of birth control has played in allowing women and men to make responsible decisions about the bearing and rearing of children."
United Church of Christ
--Practiced by President Barack Obama, a Democrat
--Strong advocate for birth control
--In a "Mission Statement on Health and Human Service," the church said it "must be a strong advocate for those priorities which serve life and human fulfillment." Among them, it said, is access to effective birth control.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism)
--Practiced by Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney
--The decision rests with couples.
--The church on its website advises that "those who are physically able have the blessing, joy and obligation to bear children and to raise a family. This blessing should not be postponed for selfish reasons."
However, the church says the number of children and when to have them is a private decision for the couple.
"Decisions about birth control and the consequences of those decisions rest solely with each married couple," it says.
--Generally regarded as OK
--Muslim religious authorities generally say that Islam does not prohibit contraceptive use, especially for the health of the mother and the family's economic well-being, according to a 2011 report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The report found that the use of birth control is significantly lower in Muslim-majority countries but that using contraception has become more accepted since the 1990s. Of 44 Muslim-majority countries, 20 reported that at least half of married women ages 15-49 use some form of birth control.
(The Association of Religious Data Archives puts the total number of adherents in Columbus at about 10,000, but the Jewish Federation of Columbus notes that other counts put the Jewish population in the city at 22,000.)
--Reconstructionist (135 adherents): In a statement most recently updated in 2006, the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation said it advocates for the availability of information and resources that support reproductive choice.
--Reform (3,934 adherents): In a document on world population reaffirmed in 1965, the general assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism said it believes that planned parenthood is a " vital contribution to family life."
--Conservative (3,432 adherents): In a 2012 "Resolution on Reproductive Freedom in the United States," the Rabbinical Assembly said denying women the right to reproductive health care, including contraception, deprives them of constitutional rights.
--Orthodox (2,500 adherents): Contraceptive use is allowed in most cases, but some rabbis oppose the use of condoms because Jewish law prohibits men from wasting seed. (Condoms may be permitted to prevent disease.)
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