The paradox of birth control in Italy

By Anam Siddiq

In the eyes of the Catholic Church, the use of artificial birth control devices and drugs are strictly forbidden. The Vatican even likens their use to the medical procedure they most fear, abortion, saying that contraceptives and abortions are “the fruits of the same tree.” Yet, the incredibly low birth rate among Italian women suggests that birth control is widely practiced. There is evidence of this, even in the shadow of the Vatican where pharmacies openly sell condoms.

Meanwhile in the United States, the Obama Administration recently mandated that virtually all employers, including Catholic schools, hospitals and social service agencies, must have health insurance plans that cover contraceptives for their employees. The most strident opponents of this policy have been America’s Catholic bishops. In light of the ensuing debate, it is instructive to take stock of how influential the Catholic Church is on this topic in Italy, the home of the Vatican.

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