Just Because I’m Catholic Doesn’t Mean I Shouldn’t Use Birth Control Says Melinda Gates

melinda-gates

Birth control is such a political issue here in the United States. Over the past few years with increased measures trying to restrict access to and effectively shut down safe abortion and reproductive health clinics for women in certain states, coupled with the impending doom of certain Supreme Court cases that are threatening to unravel the way Obamacare allows for certain contraceptives, women are being forced to fight for the rights of their own ovaries. And it’s not right!

Women’s advocate and one half of the word’s largest private foundations, Melinda Gates, of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is probably one of the most outspoken women on this issue who isn’t a politician.

She regularly talks about the benefits for women having access to certain types of birth control in under-developed and developing countries, but in a recent interview she very candidly spoke about the benefits for women in developed countries such as the US.

“[Birth control] is too important to let it be a politicized issue,” she said to an audience an an AOL Build session.

One of the reasons she is such a strong advocate of the use of contraceptives is because of her own experience as a working mother, and how they enabled her to plan her family with her husband, Microsoft founder Bill.

What she doesn’t talk about often in interviews and decided to share in this one, is that she is a devout Catholic. And usually when you think of Catholics, you think of women who shun birth control. Not this faithful woman!

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“Just because I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I shouldn’t speak out on what I believe in. Catholic women, more than 90 percent, report using contraceptives. And we sort of take them for granted, but why should we have them and other women not?”

She’s not the only Catholic woman speaking out about the benefits of birth control and why they are not going against their personal beliefs. The National Coalition of American Nuns came out in favor of Obamacare in 2014 and spoke in favor of women having access to contraceptives. There is a whole community of devout women who claim the “pro-choice” stance but say pro-choice IS pro-life because in many cases birth control afford them the ability to plan their families and not disadvantage themselves economically.

The Gates Foundation allocated $560 million of the $2.6 billion pledged toward the cause. The nonprofit aims to bring contraceptive information, services and supplies to an additional 120 million women and girls in the developing world by 2020.

Access to birth control has a wide-ranging impact on the greater economy, in any country. In the US, the only industrialized nation in the world not to have any sort of government-mandated maternity or paternity leave, being able to plan a family and make decisions about work are crucial, especially for women.

Melinda has vehemently spoken of the need to invest in women, not just financially, but in all aspect of their lives, which includes allowing them access to healthcare that enables them to make empowered decisions about their families.

“Women’s empowerment is an engine for economic growth in poor countries. According to the No Ceilings Full Participation Report, which recently launched, if Egyptian women were employed at the same rate as men that country’s GDP would climb by 34%,” she wrote in a recent article in Fortune Magazine.

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“In the U.S., by the way, that figure is 5%. The same report shows that, since women prioritize things like education and health care for their children, they also build the foundations of a prosperous future. This means empowered women can generate a vast amount of wealth that people around the world would be able to spend. When you invest in women, you invest in the people who invest in everybody else.”

In the Makers Women interview she says there are 220 million women in the developing world who want access to birth control because they can’t afford to keep having children. Part of this is because the controversial nature of the topic in America has not enabled more access for these women.

“I’m a practicing Catholic and I use contraceptives,” she says unashamedly, despite the video showing opposition from the Vatican.

Melinda also talks openly about her family and how she used to be very private in the early days of the Gates Foundation and her marriage. But in wanting to set a positive example for her daughters to use their voice to make a difference, she decided being a public advocate herself was the best way to show that.

It’s also the first time she has shared intimate details of how she met her husband and how discussions about their wealth became the catalyst for the philanthropic work they do today.

It’s not everyday we hear women with Catholic beliefs standing up for their decision to use birth control. The discussion around shaming women for having sex or certain healthcare decisions should not be the focus. Instead it should be on how women can be empowered to make the right decisions which will impact themselves, their communities and and their families in a positive way.

 

 

 

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