COLUMN: Just how right (or wrong) is birth control these days?
Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing birth control in America.
Birth control is back in headlines this summer, so let’s take a fresh look at this long-running debate.
Just how moral is it now? Has birth control become more — or less — morally acceptable?
The issue is back in the spotlight because of the “contraceptive mandate” in the new federal healthcare law. In May, more than 40 Catholic groups filed lawsuits against the requirement that employers must provide free contraceptive coverage to their employees. “Religious liberty” or the separation of church and state are the main objections voiced against this measure, but the morality of birth control is also at issue.
Data from a new Gallup survey gives us a snapshot of just how right — or wrong — Americans consider the practice. Now, 9 out of 10 Americans (89 percent) say birth control is morally acceptable, Gallup reports. Among Catholics, the figure is almost as high: 82 percent say it is morally acceptable. Fifteen percent say it isn’t.
This high level of support may not be surprising, but what is particularly revealing is how the moral acceptance of birth control compares to other behaviors.
See how well you can rank these behaviors ...
Compared to birth control, rank these in terms of moral acceptability:
Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur
Medical testing on animals
Doctor assisted suicide
Married men and women having affairs
Made your own ranking? Then, here’s what Gallup found:
All of these behaviors are considered less morally acceptable than birth control, according to Gallup. In fact, of the 18 behaviors surveyed by Gallup (including these nine), birth control ranked #1: More Americans say this was morally acceptable than any other behavior.
In fact, the list above is ordered by moral acceptability. About two thirds of Americans (67 percent) say divorce is morally acceptable, giving it the #2 spot. Fewer Americans say a behavior is morally acceptable as we move down the list. At the bottom is the behavior that more Americans say is morally wrong than any other: affairs between married men and women. Almost nine of ten (89 percent) say it is wrong; only 7 percent say it’s morally acceptable.
Do you believe birth control is moral?
Would you say the behaviors listed above are less morally acceptable?
For you, what is the most morally unacceptable behavior?
Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.