98% of Catholic Women Have Used Contraception the Church Opposes

It's surely a fact that the Catholic Church's higher-ups don't want to hear, but it's one that the White House has heralded in his defense of the new (and today, amended) requirement for Catholic employers to offer insurance that covers contraceptives. "According to a study by the Guttmacher Institute, most women, including 98 percent of Catholic women, have used contraception," the White House's blog wrote last week. They were referring to an April 2011 report from the organization that describes its mission as to "advance sexual and reproductive health and rights." The 98 percent was among all Catholic women who have had sex and did not include "natural family planning," i.e. the only officiallly Church-sanctioned method of preventing pregnancies. That number is nearly indistiguishable from the reported 99 percent of all American women who say they have used contraception. These are the key bits from Guttmacher Institute's "Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use":

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The statistic has reemerged in the controversy around the Obama administration's proposal to make religious organizations offer insurance for contraceptives. The data, though, was collected in another study. Its methodology section explains, "This report was based on data from the 2006–2008 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). Designed and administered by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the NSFG produces national estimates of factors affecting pregnancy, including sexual activity and contraceptive use. Data were gathered using in-person interviews with 7,356 women aged 15–44 between June 2006 and December 2008."

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And while, as PolitiFact notes, the White House's posting didn't clarify that that 98 percent referred to all sexually active Catholic women in the U.S., the Guttmacher Institute's study makes it clear that even unmarried and devout Catholic women are sexual beings: 89 percent of all unmarried Catholic women have had sex.