Apologists for the administration’s abortion pill & contraceptive mandate are pointing to statistics that say as many as 98% of Roman Catholic women use contraceptives in defiance of the teaching of their church. This is then used to encourage Democrats to not back down from the mandate, despite what the bishops say, as if rank and file Catholics will support the Obama administration anyway.
It turns out, though, that the 98% numbers are yet another way to lie with statistics, as Mark Misulia explains, quoting an analysis linked in the post:
The study excludes women who are not sexually active, where this is defined as “sexual intercourse in the past three months,” postpartum, pregnant, or women trying to get pregnant. The study was designed to “include only women for whom a pregnancy would be unintended and who are ‘at risk’ of becoming pregnant.” It is not clear whether the study includes women who are neither trying nor not trying to become pregnant. . . .
“The deliberate design of the study to cover only women who, at the time of the study, were having sexual intercourse while regarding a pregnancy as unintended would be likely to make it unrepresentative of Catholics and particularly unrepresentative of devout Catholics. Yet the study is now being cited to show the percentage of Catholic women generally who are not following the teaching of the Catholic Church in this area…a statistic based on a study that explicitly excluded those who have no use for contraception is obviously irrelevant to a question about the percentage of Catholic women who have a use for contraception!”
The fact that women who are celibate, postpartum, and those not trying to avoid pregnancy are excluded is enough. That such a misrepresentation is being used as leverage in serious political discourse is truly unfortunate, regardless of the content of the study, and says as much about contemporary American politics as the mandate itself.
Here is how Mollie Hemingway puts it, analyzing in more detail the original study from the Guttmacher Institute (which happens to be an organization affiliated with Planned Parenthood):
So I guess we could say that among women aged 15-44 who had sex in the last three months but aren’t pregnant, post-partum or trying to get pregnant, 87 percent of women who identify as Catholic used contraception. It’s worth pondering just who is left out of this 87 percent, other than, you know, everyone who doesn’t use contraception.
Certainly lots of Roman Catholics don’t follow their church’s teaching in this matter, but that doesn’t change the right of the church to set those teachings, as they themselves for the most part surely realize.