(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).
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 peopleMuslim 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.
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: