Catholicism, Contraception, & the Bottom Billion: A Grounded Theory Study of Family Planning & Global Poverty




McCalley, Emily M.

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The World Health Organization and leading global aid distributors have made access to contraception one of their number one priorities for global health intervention this century, citing the corresponding improvements in maternal and infant mortality rates, lowering of family size, and higher education levels in areas with recent access to birth control. Yet historically, the Catholic Church has condemned artificial contraception as antithetical to a Christian understanding of marriage, sexuality, and family and an ultimate danger to community life. This original qualitative study uses classical grounded theory techniques to investigate how Catholics and non-Catholics with experience in low-income countries navigate the social justice issues around contraception and poverty. Analysis of data from 16 semi-structured interviews with priests and health care providers showed that respondents’ accounts of historical narrative, spiritual authority, and ultimately of human flourishing are critical to how they frame these questions. These fundamental differences lead to varying accounts of the way that contraception can enhance or harm the lives of women and societies in developing countries.



Grounded theory., Qualitative study., Catholicism., Contraception., Global health., Health care., Women's health., Social justice., Humanae Vitae., Maternal health., Theology., Family planning.