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Contraceptives and Religion

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(How) does contraceptive use relate to religion? We looked at data from the United States and Indonesia to find out.

In the US, socially-conservative politicians are pushing to “defund” Planned Parenthood, the reproductive health clinic most-known for providing abortions, but also supplies vital health care for women, including contraceptives.

But access to birth control is already tenuous in other ways as well. Religious hospitals, such as those with Catholic affiliation, often have “restrictions on contraception, both of which are opposed by the Catholic Church” (FiveThirtyEight).

Percentage of Catholic Hospitals in the US (Source: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-insurers-can-send-patients-to-religious-hospitals-that-restrict-reproductive-care/)

Outside of the US, religion and contraceptive use seem to be correlated as well, although their relationship may sometimes be less dramatic than expected. In Indonesia, for example, “President Suharto instituted a population policy in the late 1960s” which included providing “free contraceptives” (NIH).

87.2% of the population, or 209 million people

Muslim population in Indonesia (Pew)

The result was that “between 1980 and 1987, the contraceptive use rate rose from 27 to 48%” (NIH). According to the survey, Muslim women in the survey “were less likely to use contraceptives than other women,” which appears to be in line with Western perceptions of Islam as condemning contraception or abortion.

However, in reality, “many Muslim religious thinkers over the past quarter-century have maintained that […] family planning is permitted and even encouraged by Islamic law” (Guttmacher Institute). Surprisingly, in an analysis of contraceptive data from 1987 in Indonesia (see the chart below), while 44.2% of women surveyed who identified as Muslim reported “No use” of contraceptives, 35.27% of the same demographic reported using “Long-term” contraception.

Percentage of Contraceptive Use by women, separated by whether or not the respondent identified as Muslim or non-Muslim (not necessarily non-religious).
(Data Source: https://data.world/uci/contraceptive-method-choice)

In contrast with those who did not identify as Muslim, contraceptive use was more evenly distributed among those who reported “No use,” “Short-term” and “Long-term,” with 34.1%, 34.5%, and 31.4% respectively.

Surprisingly, there wasn’t that big of a difference between long-term use between Muslim and non-Muslim women, suggesting that there are likely more factors than religion that play into the decision to use or not use contraceptives, or that those following other religions may have similar views towards contraceptives. Short-term and long-term contraceptives may be viewed differently as well.

Data and Code for Data Visualization:

https://trinket.io/python3/085b593149

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COMMENTS: 7
  1. April 25, 2019 by Payton.Waters

    Annie, the statistics about contraceptive use that included were very captivating! It is so interesting that Muslims have around 44% of not using contraceptives. The correlation between religion and contraception is definitely very captivating. I wonder what your “Call to Action” may be for this particular topic? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on what we could be doing to address contraception and its relationship to religion.

  2. April 27, 2019 by James Howe

    This is interesting! for me, the conversation has always been about how different sects of Christianity affect contraception use, but it’s nice to see an analysis of another religion

  3. April 28, 2019 by Samiha.Datta

    Annie, this is such a cool topic! I really liked your article. I find it interesting that more Muslims don’t use contraceptives than non Muslims. I also like the way you addressed the fact that although religions are divided by different ideologies and practices, some similarities exist across the board. Do you know if these breakdowns of contraceptive use are similar today?

  4. April 28, 2019 by Eva Batelaan

    The correlation between contraceptions and religion is so interesting! I like that you chose Islam as the religion to analyze and that you addressed the differences in ideology between religions.

  5. April 29, 2019 by Haley

    Your article focused on such an interesting lense – I hadn’t thought too much about the religious impact on contraception use. I wonder how it impacts other religious groups.

  6. April 30, 2019 by Nikhil

    This is a fascinating idea!

  7. May 01, 2019 by Shilpa H.

    Hey Annie!
    Your project was focused on something I had never thought about before, however, I’m glad that I did. Coming from Malaysia, I understand the lengths of stigma against anything that could be considered sexual in even the little ways. It’s terrible how even with all the effort that we’re putting into ending the stigma of women being sexual, there are still simple things like contraception that are looked down upon. I really connected with your topic – thank you for that.

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