Media Keep Citing Bogus Stat about Catholics and Birth Control

Since the Hobby Lobby decision, liberals have been sputtering about the War on WomenTM and trotting out arguments that are both beside the point and dubious in themselves.

Take for example liberal radio personality Stephanie Miller. On CNN’s “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley on July 6, Miller declared, “Every woman I know is furious about the hobby lobby decision.” Yes, she needs to get out more. But then she pulled out this liberal chestnut: “Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women use birth control.”



 

Unfortunately for Miller, that stat is bogus – at least if you believe that hive of misogynistic popery, The Washington Post.

The stat originated with the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute and was immediately circulated in the media. Here’s the Huffington Post’s Laura Basset on Bill Press’s Current TV show (when there was a Current TV) in August 2012: “There are tons of Catholics in this country. You know, most ofthem use birth control – 98 percent ofthem. In fact, I have a percentage of that use birth control and didn't appreciate the Catholic Church coming out so hard against, you know, the insurance coverage of birth control.”

Barbara Boxer used it in March to castigate Hobby Lobby. “Hobby Lobby’s decided what kind of birthcontrolpills women should use,” she fatuously told MSNBC host Chris Jansing, “when 99 percent of women have used birthcontrolat some point in their lifetime, including 98 percent of Catholic women. 

But the stat was long ago shown to be misleading at best. Back in 2012, pretend Catholic Nancy Pelosi said to a roomful of reporters, “ninety-eight percent of Catholic women, I am told by all of you, use birth control to determine the size and timing of their families.”

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler fact-checked the claim. “The study says that 98 percent of ‘sexually experienced Catholic women’ have ‘ever used a contraceptive method other than natural planning,’ the data shown in the report does not actually back up that claim. In fact, a supplementary table in the report, on page 8, even appears to undermine that statistic, since it shows that 11 percent of Catholic women currently using no method at all.”

Kessler went on, “The journalistic shorthand has been that ‘98 percent of American Catholic women have used contraception in their lifetimes.’But that is incorrect, according to the research. He then quoted Rachel K. Jones, one of the authors of the Guttmacher study. “’The shorthand is not what our statistic shows since we only looked at women aged 15-44 who have ever had sex,’” Jones said. 

Kessler called that media shorthand “sloppy” and gave the claim two “Pinnochios.”

Obviously, many Catholic women do used artificial birth control, contrary to Church teaching, but the 98 percent claim was, in Kessler’s words “too good to be true.” It’s also beside the point. As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops responded in 2012, "If a survey found that 98 percent of people had lied, cheated on their taxes, or had sex outside of marriage, would the government claim it can force everyone to do so?"

Matthew Philbin
Matthew Philbin
Matt Philbin is Managing Editor of MRC Culture