Melinda Gates challenges Vatican by vowing to improve contraception
The billionaire philanthropist Melinda Gates, a practising Catholic, has thrown down the gauntlet to the Vatican and vowed to dedicate the rest of her life to improving access to contraception across the globe.
Gates, who with her husband, Bill, the founder of Microsoft, is one of the world’s biggest players on development issues, predicted that women in Africa and Asia would soon be “voting with their feet”, as women in the west have done, and would ignore the church’s ban on artificial birth control.
Gates, who was a speaker at the London Summit on Family Planning organised by her foundation in conjunction with the UK government and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that since she announced her new direction a few weeks ago she had been inundated with messages of support from Catholic women, including nuns.
“A church is made up of its members, and one of the things this campaign might do is help women speak out. I’ve had thousands of women come on to websites and say” ‘I’m a Catholic, but I believe in contraception.’ It’s going to be women voting with their feet.”
Gates said that in the west the bishops said one thing, but ordinary Catholics did another. “In my country 82% of Catholics say contraception is morally acceptable. So let the women in Africa decide. The choice is up to them.”
She admitted, though, that she had agonised over whether to speak out in defiance of the church hierarchy. “Of course I wrestled with this. As a Catholic I believe in this religion, there are amazing things about this religion, amazing moral teachings that I do believe in, but I also have to think about how we keep women alive. I believe in not letting women die, I believe in not letting babies die, and to me that’s more important than arguing about what method of contraception [is right].” [more]