A Long Way from the Vatican: Catholic Attitudes towards Reproductive Rights Church-State and Related Issues in Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico: Catholics for a Free Choice and Catolicas Por El Derecho a Decidir

Article excerpt

NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY, Catholics differ on the role of the church in certain aspects of their lives. However, one point all Catholics tend to agree on is the fact that the Vatican does not wholly represent the beliefs of the 1 billion Catholics it oversees, particularly when it comes to matters of reproductive rights. For example, the church is unyielding regarding its stance against modern forms of contraception. Still, many Catholics around the world are using contraception, and Catholics in Latin America are no exception.

Catholics for a Free Choice and its partner organizations Catolicas pot el Derecho a Decidir jointly commissioned three companion surveys in Mexico, Bolivia and Colombia in the latter half of 2003 to explore Catholics' attitudes towards reproductive rights, the role of the Catholic church in reproductive rights issues and in political life, and related issues. Catholics comprise 95% of the population in Bolivia, 90% in Colombia and 89% in Mexico.

The following are some examples of key reproductive rights issues that exemplify the disconnect between the Vatican and followers of the Catholic faith in Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. Ordering information for the full report is at the end of this summary.

ACCESS TO CONTRACEPTION

Ninety-one percent of Catholics in Colombia and Mexico believe adults should have access to contraception, in eluding condoms ,and the birth control pill; 79% of Catholics in Bolivia agree. These same Catholics believe public health services, including hospitals and health centers, should provide free contraception; 96% of Catholics in Mexico feel this way, while 91% of Catholics in Bolivia and Colombia hold this belief as well.

CHURCH DOCTRINE AND OPINIONS OF CATHOLICS WHO USE BIRTH CONTROL

Church doctrine forbids the use of any contraceptive methods, with the exception of celibacy and periodic abstinence. However, 87% of Catholics in Colombia believe that a person can use contraceptives and still be a good Catholic, while 84% of those in Mexico and 81% of Catholics in Bolivia share this view. More than 85% in all three countries think that adolescents should be taught about all methods of contraception in schools.

VIEWS ON ABORTION

A significant number of Catholics in these three countries believe abortions should be allowed in some or all circumstances. Sixty percent of those in Mexico feel this way, while 56% of those in Bolivia, and 49% of those in Colombia share this belief.

WHO SHOULD DECIDE?

In instances where abortion is a consideration, 62% of Bolivian Catholics, 55% of Mexican Catholics and 48% of Colombian Catholics believe the ultimate decision to have an abortion lies with the couple, and not the church.

A WOMAN CAN STILL BE A GOOD CATHOLIC AFTER HAVING AN ABORTION OR WHILE SUPPORTING SOMEONE WHO DOES

Many Latin American Catholics believe it is possible to be a good Catholic even after having an abortion. In Mexico, 53% of residents hold this view; in Bolivia, those in agreement total 50%, while 37% of those in Colombia feel this way. These same individuals also believe it is possible to be a good Catholic if one supports a woman who has had an abortion; 55% of those in Mexico agree with this, while 50% of Catholics in Bolivia and 39% of those in Colombia agree.

A WOMAN SHOULD NOT BE EXPELLED FROM THE CHURCH FOR HAVING AN ABORTION

Mexican Catholics, at 81%, are most op posed to the expulsion of a woman from the church because she has had an abortion. Seventy-four percent of Bolivian Catholics feel this way, and 67% of Colombian Catholics, while more conservative in their views, also believe that a woman who has had an abortion should be allowed to remain in the church.

PUBLIC HOSPITALS SHOULD ATTEND TO WOMEN WITH POST-ABORTION HEALTH PROBLEMS

An overwhelming number of Catholics in the three countries believe public hospitals should provide care to women who experience post-abortion related health issues. …