Nuns should be offered the contraceptive pill on health grounds since it would cut their risk of getting cancer, according to two Australian doctors.

The vow of chastity taken by the world’s 95,000 nuns carries with it an increased risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer – all of which are more commonin women who do not have children.

In the first half of the 20th century, scientists who studied 32,000 Catholic nuns in the United States established that the death rates from breast, ovarian and uterine cancer were higher than for other women of their age.

O verall mortality in women using the contraceptive pill is around 12 per cent lower than in those who have never used it.

The Australian doctors p ointed out that “If the Catholic Church could make the oral contraceptive pill freely available to all nuns, it would reduce the risk of breast cancer, cancer of the ovary and uterus, and give nuns’ plight the recognition it deserves.”

But there is a problem. The Catholic Church condemns all forms of contraception, barring abstinence.  Objectively speaking, taking an artificial contraceptive, is a mortal sin.

Despite this, should nuns take birth control?

What do you think?


  1. 1
    SUZANNE Says:

    It’s not a sin for non-sexually active people to take the Pill for medical reasons. What is laughable is this effort to get nuns to take the Pill. It’s obviously an effort to make the American Catholic Church drop its opposition to contraception coverage in the healthcare debate in the US. It’s also another way to legitimize the Pill.

    The next thing you know, they’ll be saying non-sexually active teens should take it. It’s a big farce.

  2. 2

    . I just finished reading Charles Foran`s biography of Mordecai Richler. This is as funny as anything in that book.

  3. 3
    Neil McKenty Says:

    If, as you say, nuns may morally take the pill for medical reasons, how does raising the subject legitimize the pill?

  4. 4
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    If nuns took birth control, we wouldn’t get great movies like “Agnes of God”.

  5. 5

    Nuns in areas of the world where they are at risk of being raped can already take the pill. Why not for health reasons?

    Each one needs to be allowed to make that choice for herself.

  6. 6

    And Suzanne…the pill is already legitimate. No need for any further action on it, thanks.

  7. 7

    The pill is commonly used to regulate menstrual periods. It is used for preteens, teens and anyone experiencing abnormal symptoms. Athletes also use it, to control when they have a period. If it is a cancer deterrent, then of course it should be used for anyone. A “side-effect” may be contraception, but if it’s not taken for that reason, the Catholic church shouldn’t have an objection. Morphine is used to lessen pain, but is also an illicit drug under some conditions. There are many more drugs which have a duel purpose.
    Surely the Catholic church hasn’t commented on this subject!

  8. 8
    Barbara Says:

    The problem arises in the States where the Bishops have railed against the government requiring them to purchase health insurance for their employees and the health insurance covers birth control pills. If nuns can take birth control pills with the intention of lowering their risk of various forms of cancer, then they would have to include birth control pills in their health insurance plans. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. hehe

  9. 9

    Thanks, Barbara-I didn’t know that about the USA & insurance controversy. My ears don’t exactly perk up when I hear the words birth control in the news these days…I was one of the first wave of users in 1962- They were 10mg back then!
    On the same note-Do US insurance companies pay for abortions? Our Medicare does. YIKES! Let’s NOT open that can of worms!

  10. 10
    Jim Says:

    Duh? Why doesn’t a drug manufacturer rename the contraceptive pill, when used for cancer prevention, the contracancer pill. After all, many other pills have dual purposes with duel names, such as aspirin (ASA) The War Department made this suggestion to me.

  11. 11
    Barbara Says:

    Legally, it would have to declare that one of its principal side effects is contraception. That’s a biggee. So what is to be gained by re-labelling? ASA is not a different marketing name for aspirin, it is its chemical name. All drugs have chemical names because they — er– are chemicals.

  12. 12
    Jim Says:

    Barbara – I didn’t say that ASA (Aspirin) were duels to each other. What I said was that it had duels. For instance Aspirin (ASA) to name a few of their duels are, Anacin,Excedrne, and Bufferin. If I had wanted Aspirin (ASA) to be duel to each other, I would have written it down as – Aspirin and ASA.
    You also said that the drug company would legally….
    In my experience the drug companies have always done what they have wanted to do, and the only time I’ve seen them reined in, is when hundreds to thousands of patients have lost their lives. Normally it takes years for the authorities to get them to stop. I’m guessing that the reason for the long delay to stop them, is so that they can have time to recoup their research expenditures. Have a nice day, unless you’ve made other plans.

  13. 13
    Barbara Says:

    When a pharmaceutical company patents a drug, it patents the chemical name. To sell it legally, the drug must undergo trials to insure it does what it is claimed to do with a minimum of harmful side effects (side effects cannot be eliminated). Information about known side effects are given to anyone who purchases the drug. Any harmful side effects that were unknown or ignored during the testing are what give rise to those famous court cases and drug removal from the marketplace. The patients pay a big price, but the industry pays one as well. Remember the big pharmaceutical research facility in Pointe Claire that closed a few years ago?

    Your suggestion that the same drug could be marketed as a cancer preventive drug implies that the same chemical formula could be patented for another purpose. I am not a patent attorney, but I would wonder if that were legal. Of course, they could chemically alter the original formula in some innocuous way with the intention of marketing it as an anti-cancer drug. Then they would have to go through all the testing that is, I hear from those in that industry, is the most expensive and time-consuming part of drug development.

    ASA is over-the-counter and not subject to a patent. It can be added to other formulations, but its presence must be so indicated.

    Sorry, if I misread you, Jim. Some times I find you difficult to read.

  14. 14

    Well, I’ve had enough experience with the patent process to say this: the formula is what’s patented, not the uses to which it is put. For instance, if anyone could (and just wait for it!) own the patent on the formula for water, it would make absolutely NO difference if it was marketed as a cleanser, or a thirst quencher, or a solvent. It is ALL those things and more. But it is rarely used for only one thing. The owner of the patent gets to collect the royalties every time it’s used, no matter how it’s used.

    The name of the thing, on the other hand, is not a patent issue, but one of copyright and/or trademark– different thing altogether. And that is also determined by laws in different places around the world.

    For example, acetylsalicyllic acid is the chemical name for a compund. ASA is its generic name. “Aspirin” is a copyrighted name (aka trademark) owned by Bayer in several countries, including Canada. It has been declared to be in the public domain, however, in several other countires, including the States.

    This link will define terms as they are regulated in the United States: But those terms are good only in the States. Every other country will have their own terms and their own regulations.

    International patent law is a very lucrative career…

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