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Contraception (or birth control) refers to techniques, drugs, or devices that prevent conception. There are many different methods, each having its own level of effectiveness and safety. According to a study in the JAMA Psychiatry journal, hormonal birth control is associated with depression.[1] The only known method that is 100% effective is abstinence. Abstinence during fertile times can take the place of artificial forms of birth control.[2]

Catholic teachings on contraception

The Roman Catholic church prohibits the use of artificial contraceptives such as pills or barriers to Catholics, though it supports natural methods of avoiding conception based on timing. The policy on contraception is given in the Humanae Vitae.

  • The Church does not teach that in engaging in intercourse has to be acting with an intention for procreation, an objective one could realistically have in mind only when one was fertile. What they teach is that sexual intercourse will not make for an authentic unity of two-in-one-flesh if those engaging in it set out to negate its built-in significance as generative/procreation behavior.[3]
  • The Vatican observes that the only morally sound method of birth control is avoiding sex when the woman is fertile. In contrast, "'every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible' is intrinsically evil."[4]

Anglican teachings on contraception

The Anglican Church regards sexual love as an essential way for a husband and wife to express and strengthen their mutual love, citing Genesis 2:18 'It is not good that the man (Adam) should be alone' in support of this. At the Lambeth Conference of 1930 a resolution was passed stating: Where there is a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, complete abstinence is the primary and obvious method. It continued by saying that if there was morally sound reasoning for avoiding abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of Christian principles.

However, by the Lambeth Conference of 1958, contraceptive use among most Anglicans was widespread and a resolution that year stated that the responsibility for deciding upon the number and frequency of children was laid by God upon the consciences of parents in such ways as are acceptable to husband and wife.[5]

Muslim teachings on contraception

There is no single attitude to contraception within Islam; however eight of the nine classic schools of Islamic law permit it.

But some Islamic leaders have openly campaigned against the use of condoms or other birth control methods, thus making population planning in many countries ineffective.

This resistance to birth control was reflected in 2005 when a conference involving 40 Islamic scholars from 21 countries urged fresh efforts to push population planning and better reproductive health services.

Hindu teachings on contraception

Hinduism encourages procreation within marriage, yet there is no opposition against contraception. Most Hindus accept that there is a duty to have a family during that stage of one's life. So they are unlikely to use birth control to avoid having children altogether.

Traditional Hindu texts praise large families (which was normal in ancient times). Yet, Hindu scriptures that applaud small families also exist which emphasize the development of a positive social conscience. So family planning is seen as an ethical good. The Upanishads (texts delineating key Hindu concepts) describe birth control methods, and some Hindu scriptures contain advice on what a couple should do to promote conception (thus providing a type of contraceptive advice).

Medical harms

Some types of contraception can produce an increase in the risk of breast cancer among current and recent users. By 1999, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined the scientific evidence was then compelling enough to designate combined estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives as "carcinogenic to humans" (Group 1). This designation was reaffirmed in 2005.[6]

Studies accounting for the timing and length of exposure showed that women who began using hormonal contraceptives before the age of 20 and before their first full-term pregnancy are at substantially increased risk for premenopausal breast cancer.

The most recent meta-analysis to date, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (October,2006) found that oral contraceptives increase the risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer by 44% in women who took them prior to the birth of their first child. The authors noted that 21 out of 23 studies showed a positive trend or risk in this cohort of women. The meta-analysis also found that women who took oral contraceptives for 4 or more years prior to the birth of their first child had a 52% increased risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer. Both of these statistics were significant at the 99% confidence interval-a higher standard of statistical significance than is used in most research.[7] An older pooled analysis published in 1996-the Oxford pooled-analysis- found a relative risk (RR) of 1.24 of breast cancer diagnosis among current combined oral contraceptive pill users;[8] however this analysis has been critiqued because over 66% of women were over the age of 45 [9] and because the authors included several older studies, the bulk of whose data came prior to 1980.[10]

Legality (US)

Until a 1923 court decision, the federal Comstock Act prohibited the use of the mail service to distribute contraceptives or information on contraception or abortion. Contraception was until this time considered obscene for legal purposes, as it was considered to serve only in the promotion of immorality.

Until 1965, some US states criminalized the possession and/or distribution of contraceptives for reasons of public morality on the grounds that contraception would encourage premarital sex. In the 1965 Supreme Court case of Griswold v. Connecticut, activist judges invented a constitutional right to contraception. The 1972 case of Eisenstadt v. Baird later extended this invented right to include even unmarried couples, rendering any legal attempt to restrict access impossible.

John Roberts upheld "Griswold" at his 2005 confirmation hearings to be Chief Justice.[11]

asked, "Do you agree that there is a right of privacy to be found in the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?" Roberts responded:
"I do, Senator. I think that the court's expressions, and I think if my reading of the precedent is correct, I think every justice on the court believes that, to some extent or another. Liberty is not limited to freedom from physical restraint. It does cover areas, as you said, such as privacy. And it's not protected only in procedural terms but it is protected substantively as well."
"I agree with the Griswold court's conclusion that marital privacy extends to contraception and availability of that. The court, since Griswold, has grounded the privacy right discussed in that case in the liberty interest protected under the due process clause."
"I feel comfortable commenting on Griswold and the result in Griswold because that does not appear to me to be an area that is going to come before the court again."

Legality (International)


  1. CNN - Birth control linked to depression, new study says October 5, 2016
  2. "When a couple for serious reasons abstain from intercourse at times at which they might conceive, their abstaining is itself chosen sexual behavior, and virtuous sexual behavior because it is expressive of a recognition of the demands of the pro creative good."
  4. [1]
  5. Science, Medicine, Technology & Environment | Church of England
  6. World Health Organization: Carcinogenicity of combined hormonal contraceptives and combined menopausal treatment
  7. Kahlenborn C, Modugno F, Potter DM, Severs WB. Oral contraceptive use as a risk factor for premenopausal breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Mayo Clin Proc. 2006:81(10):1290-1302.
  8. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Breast cancer and hormonal contraceptives: further results Contraception, 1996;54 (1S- 106S) (See appendix 62).
  9. Althuis MD, Brogan DR, Coates RJ, et al. Hormonal content and potency of oral contraceptives and breast cancer risk among young women. Br. J. Cancer. 2003:88:50-57.
  10. Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Breast cancer and hormonal contraceptives: further results Contraception, 1996;54 (1S- 106S) (See appendix 62).
  11. See quotations

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