Melinda Gates’ Contraception Funding Makes Catholics Mad; We Think It’s Great

Taken from here.

Melinda Gates has recently come under fire for supporting a new contraceptive plan that aims to bring birth control to 120 million women worldwide, with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. What’s the problem? Melinda is a practicing Catholic, and the Catholic church doesn’t believe in birth control.

The Church maintains a strong stance against birth control of any kind, a viewpoint it clings to with a death grip, even as public opinion in favor of contraception continues to increase. In fact, up to 98% of Catholic women have ignored the church’s stance on contraception, according to a May article in The Denver Post.

Melinda has been open about the inner struggle between her Catholic faith and her commitment to contraception; in fact, she and her husband specifically decided not to fund abortions: “From the very beginning, we said that as a foundation we will not support abortion, because we don’t believe in funding it,” she told Newsweek. But ultimately, after visits to areas where contraception is not readily available, Melinda decided to make family-planning her life’s work with the Gates Foundation. She says:
(In) the community that had access to contraceptives, the women chose to use them, the families grew up wealthier, fewer women died in childbirth. And what we’re seeing happening with that is that it’s playing out again all over the world. These small scale things you have in terms of giving a family the access leads to huge economic changes.
She continues to be criticized by Catholic bloggers and organizations, who call Melinda’s desire to link maternal health with international family-planning “extremely controversial…borders on scandalous.”
I was raised Catholic, and I really, truly, respect the views of religious people; everyone is entitled to their opinions, and to live their lives with their own beliefs. But I just can’t see what’s wrong with Melinda Gates helping women all over the world decide if and when they want to become mothers. In addition, the focus of the family planning initiative will be in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, areas where maternal and infant mortality rates are high and contraception use is low, according to CNN—and where the majority of people are not even Catholic.

I can see how the church would want to make sure its devotees abstain from using birth control, but I don’t undersand why a Catholic viewpoint prevents nonbelievers from using it. Would it be a Catholic issue if the funding was coming from a non-Catholic? It’s also worth mentioning that, although Bill and Melinda are practicing Catholics, the Gates Foundation is not associated with Catholicism—it’s guided by the belief that “every life has equal value,” a viewpoint informed by but not limited to the tenets of the church. Ultimately, she says, she decided that her work with contraception was a part of “the other piece of the Catholic mission, which is social justice.”

It’s sad, alarming and tragic that, in 2012, there are still millions of women all over the world who don’t have reliable access to contraception. I commend Melinda Gates for wielding her considerable economic power to provide these women with choices. She hopes to fortify a global movement, helping to support and inform the world about the important of family planning everywhere, for every woman. I think her work is brave, necessary and incredibly, hugely, exceptionally important—whether or not it’s in line with her own, or anyone else’s, religious beliefs.
Photo: Daniel Deme /
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