It's time to bin the ban on contraception: Pope Francis says Catholics shouldn't "breed like rabbits".

Pope Francis surprises us again…

The Pope has argued that Catholics shouldn’t “breed like rabbits”, despite the Catholic ban on artificial contraception.

He cited an example of a woman he met on a recent visit to the Philippines, pregnant with her eighth child after seven caesarean sections.

“The more caesarean sections a woman has, the greater the relative risk of complications,” says Associate Professor Steve Robson, obstetrician and the Vice President of the Royal Australian and NZ College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

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In the case of eight caesareans, Professor Robson states, “The most likely outcome is that there are no problems, but there is no doubt that you are exposed to more risk.”

The complications associated with a large number of caesareans, while unlikely to occur, are very serious. Professor Robson specifically mentions the increased likelihood of the placenta growing into the scar tissue from previous caesareans, a complication that may result in a large haemorrhage and in the worst cases, with hysterectomy.

The Pope is right to be concerned about this woman.

But that concern and his ongoing commitment to the Catholic Church’s stance on artificial contraception is difficult to reconcile.

For the most part, Pope Francis seems to be a pretty cool dude. He eschews the papal palace in favour of a simple apartment. He is widely reported to personally respond to many of the letters he receives from Catholics across the globe.

When one woman wrote to him about her concerns over being pregnant to a married man who had pushed her to have an abortion, the Pope rang her directly offering to baptise the child.

He upset the Catholic establishment by washing the feet of the elderly and disabled (including the feet of a Muslim) in the traditional Easter Thursday service last year, instead of washing the feet of the Cardinals (privileged Catholic bishops).


He has spent the majority of his papacy advocating for those who are struggling, sick, poor and needy.

In short, social justice and the eradication of poverty are this Pope’s big issues.

But, the fight against poverty and providing accessible birth control go hand-in-hand.

Free contraception would lower the abortion rate. So let’s do that, hey?

“Access to effective contraception means better health outcomes for the mother, more opportunities for her and her family to earn a living income and reduces the effects of poverty,” according to Shobaz Kandola, the Australian Country Director of the Global Poverty Project.

“Importantly, for a country like the Philippines, where a quarter of the population live below the poverty line, birth control could offer the country a real opportunity to fight the economic impacts of poverty.”

The United States Aid agency, USAID, estimates that for every dollar spent on family planning up to $6 can be saved in the work for poverty eradication and development.

But like all things, there is a human face to social injustice and Pope Francis gave the lack of access to birth control one himself.

In the same breath, the Pope decried the circumstances of the woman presenting for her eighth caesarean section, but denied her the birth control needed to avoid the pregnancy in the first place.

There is no doubt that Pope Francis is committed to social justice but that commitment means he needs to think again on family planning.

He must lift the ban on contraception and allow Catholic families, Catholic women in particular, the opportunity to take greater control over their futures.