By
Up With Chris Hayes
updated 3/16/2013 3:17:46 PM ET 2013-03-16T19:17:46

The election of Pope Francis this week has restarted conversations about Catholicism, modernity, and the church's stance on women and contraception. What is the cost, both economic and human, of this position?

The election of Pope Francis on Wednesday has reignited the discussion about the future of the Catholic Church and whether it will address the ever-growing gap between doctrine and modern society. The cost of its intransigence is not simply a moral one; the church’s anti-contraception stance has a major economic impact for its 1.2 billion members, both in the developing world and the U.S.

As Jacqueline Nolley Echegaray of Catholics for Choice pointed out on Up w/ Chris Hayes on Saturday, the church’s restrictions on abortion, contraception, and its broader subjugation of women actually increases poverty–the very issue Francis dedicated himself to prior to his elevation. The UN Population Fund stated in its report The State of World Population 2012 that approximately 222 million women lacked sufficient access to contraceptives. It also found that greater financial investment in providing contraception to those who want it would save nearly $6 billion in health services costs. It also found that increased funding could cut maternal mortality by 30%.

Preventing unintended pregnancy and maternal and infant death are far from the only benefits. According to the CDC, nearly three quarters of the 2.5 million new HIV infections are in the developing world, a figure that could be slashed if there were even greater access to condoms. The World Health Organization’s most recent data states that women in Sub-Saharan Africa comprise 60% of those living with HIV.

Within the U.S., poor women were six times as likely as higher-income women to have an unintended pregnancy as of 2006. The birth control coverage guaranteed by the Affordable Care Act is intended to help reduce the cost of unintended pregnancies, which were estimated to add up to some $6 billion by a 2011 Brookings Institute study. This did not stop Catholic hospitals from fighting the law under the guise of religious liberty. These medical institutions remain free to deny care to women and risk severe punishment if they do not, as when the head of an Arizona hospital’s ethics board was excommunicated in 2010 for approving an abortion that saved a woman’ s life.

While it is extremely unlikely that the church is going to change its stances on social issues anytime soon, the number of Catholics agitating for a more modern approach continue to grow. “It’s about what is morally right,” Nolley Echegaray said.

Video: What the church should do to stay relevant and to grow

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    >>> father bill, you mentioned christina, the argentina president in response to a battle over marriage equality in argentina in which the cardinal in a letter days before the bill legalized it said let's not be nai seven it's an attempt to destroy god's plan. if the question here isn't this question of the imbedding of the modern world or these kind of doctrinal questions, if it's about what the face the church presents to the world, what do you want to see happen with this papacy?

    >> part of the face that the church presents to the world, though, does come on these questions and it seems to me not all of us are on dissent on those. even the vast majority of practicing catholics we've seen the polls in the united states who might be using artificial birth control . chris matthews once said on this network in his decades of going to the church he has never heard from the pulpit about the church 's teaching about artificial birth control . reality is the church does offer something different on birth control which is something hat the world thinks about human sexuality and reprodiscussion and marriage. the church has been too weak to proclaim. the reality is the media focus on the church on pelvic issues. the lived experience of the church i think is more reflected in what chris experiences. it's not what people hear in parishes. priest don't like to talk about it. my experience of talking about it with people they are grateful for the challenge. they don't walk away and say you are correct. they are willing to say that the modern world as we've been putting it doesn't have a monopoly in thinking intelligently and profoundly about human sexuality and gender relation the whole bag of them. what i would like to see we get away from why can't the vatican bank operate credit card machines. do we need the pope's butlers these intrigues that's a distraction from the church presenting with any credibility and clarity and consistency a church people can be proud of. people can live with these doctrinal questions but things that are not controversial, that when a bishop behaves irresponsibly there will be some consequence of that. that's not at that right or left issue, so my hope is that people will be able to say in the vatican there's a pope that continues what been dict's program was bringing greater integrity and clarity to that process. we talked a bit during the break how that struggle in the vatican is going on.

    >> i live in philadelphia . we're the first city in the country that actually convicted a diocesian administrator for moving around priests. this is one of those interesting cases where we can think about what the church tells you what to do visa a vis what the law says. what we've got, mahony is over there reporting. they paid out $10 million.

    >> cardinal mahony from los angeles who oversaw a diocese in which there were several priests who serially --

    >> yeah. i lived in l.a. for a long time so i can tell you that this broke up my parish that was there in l.a. so when you have this, you have boston. i can't wait if he really does set down cardinal law one thing this pope has done well.

    >> on these issues of the papacy, outside of the doctrinal questions, do i think that kind of accountability and what that means for a renaissance of the church or to reconnect catholics here. we'll talk about the church in latin

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