Bioethics Blogs

Is it advisable for nuns to take contraceptives as preventive treatment ?

Polémica monjas podrían tomar anticonceptivos con el fin de prevenir ciertas enfermedades

From our point of view, we believe that the medical risk/benefit balance does not support the preventive use of contraceptives in celibate women, such as the nuns.

A lively debate on this subject has been recently published in the Los Angeles Times, following an opinion piece authored by Malcolm Potts1, professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Berkeley University in California (U.S.) (published 30-I-2014) and a group of readers who responded to his comments in the same newspaper a few days later (6-II-2014).

In the article, Potts openly criticised the opposition shown by a group of nuns from the state of Colorado (U.S.) to comply with President Obama’s governmental precept referring to the mandatory funding of contraceptive methods by companies for their employees.

Potts maintains that it is advisable for the nuns themselves (who for conscientious reasons object to encouraging the use of these methods among contracted staff) to use it as a way of reducing the risk of certain types of reproductive cancers.

The author states that, in populations of women who have had few or no pregnancies, on having had more ovulatory menstrual cycles (he says that women who have had several children with long periods of breastfeeding may have had no more than 40 ovulatory cycles in their fertile lifetime, compared to the 400 that may have occurred in childless women), the risk of suffering ovarian or uterine cancer is significantly increased.

Potts is an advocate for the right to abortion, and was the first health director of the influential American Planned Parenthood Federation, which provides family planning services.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.