University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
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Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Objections to contraception

Within the developed world, traditional objections to contraception have arisen from the Christian faith, the many strands of which have been derived from the Roman Catholic Church.

The Roman Catholic Church considers that the use of contraception is against Natural Law. These objections are based on the argument that it is unnatural and wrong to separate sexual intercourse from having children. The reasons for this come from two main sources:

  • The biblical story of Onan
  • Historical teachings of St Thomas Aquinas

The bible (Genesis 38: 1-10) records the story of a man called Onan, who when his brother died took on the man’s wife, as was the custom of the time. Onan did not want to have children with her, so he engaged in coitus interruptus (withdrawal method). In the words of the bible he “spilled the seed on the ground”. God was angry with Onan, and killed him for stealing his brother’s inheritance by preventing the birth of children. This story has been interpreted as separating intercourse from procreation.

St Thomas Aquinas, teaching and writing in the 13th century, believed that what is right for a person is what God intends for them. This is based on the Greek philosopher Aristotle’s belief in natural law, in this example that the natural outcome for a sperm is to fertilise an egg. 

These two sources form the basis of the Roman Catholic objection to both contraception and masturbation. However, not all Christians, or any other of the great world faiths share this view.

Other Views 
In Buddhism the motive a person has for taking contraceptives is important. Contraception is accepted if for the sake of the well-being of existing children or for the health of the mother but not if a couple simply don't want the responsibility of children.

Both the Anglican and Methodist Churches see contraception as a responsible way of arranging a family. However, population control in the sense of limiting the number of children born is alien to traditional Hindu thought and although contraception is not prohibited in Islam, Muslim families tend to be large by choice.

Note though, that there is a much diversity within a faith as between faiths.





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 BBC revision site for RE with articles on different faith's views on contraception

 Ethics for schools - range of articles on the medical aspects of various contraceptive methods and the different ethical views that are held regarding these methods

  Article about the life and teachings of St Thomas Aquinas