Occasionally, I have written an article that becomes controversial. In 2012, I published a post discussing 50 Shades of Grey (which has been the only post where I have had to delete comments due to inappropriate language). Last year, in the heat of our nation’s should-we-redefine-marriage debate, I made known my opinions on this blog. Personally, I make an extra effort to shy away from conflict. A peacekeeper at heart, I would prefer to pull my own toenails out than to intentionally upset someone or enter into a heated debate. However, if the Lord lays it on my heart to write about a disputable matter, then I have to obey Him rather than my personal preference to stay silent.
Today’s post is one of those.
January 18th-19th, 2014, is Sanctity of Life weekend. During their worship services, churches all across America will set aside time to remember the millions of sweet babies that have lost their lives to abortion. We will pray for the mothers and fathers who are still struggling to cope with a past decision to terminate their pregnancy. Reflections on Roe vs. Wade will be made as we pause to consider the impact of that infamous 1973 Supreme Court case.
My words today are not to debate being pro-life or pro-choice.
I am pro-life and my target audience is other women who also consider themselves to be the same!
I used to think being pro-life meant being against the medical procedure of an abortion. However, in His goodness, the Lord has been revealing to me that there is much more to being pro-life than simply being against abortion! It is great to prayerfully stand out front of a Planned Parenthood, participate in a march, and volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, but being pro-life requires much more. In fact, the decision to defend the uborn should impact your daily life through your choice of birth control.
As a Protestant, I used to think the argument against birth control was strictly a Catholic viewpoint. In fact, during our first year of marriage, I daily took a birth control pill with the hopes of avoiding a pregnancy.
During that time, one of my friends mentioned, in passing, that birth control pills can cause abortions, but I quickly dismissed her as a zealot. Over the next several months, I heard other people make the same statement. Being intrigued, I began to question the accuracy of their claims! I went to Web MD to look up the exact birth control pill I had utilized (while I was no longer taking it, it was still in our medicine cabinet). Here is what I read (emphasis mine),
This combination hormone medication is used to prevent pregnancy. It contains 2 hormones: a progestin and anestrogen. It works mainly by preventing the release of an egg (ovulation) during your menstrual cycle. It also makes vaginal fluid thicker to help prevent sperm from reaching an egg (fertilization) and changes the lining of the uterus (womb) to prevent attachment of a fertilized egg. If a fertilized egg does not attach to the uterus, it passes out of the body.
As I read the third way this pill is designed to “prevent pregnancy,” I knew that I had to choose what being pro-life meant to me. Was I truly for life and willing to protect even the youngest of babies or was I simply against a woman choosing to abort her baby after a certain gestational age?
Ya’ll, this was a gut punch to me and I wrestled with the Lord over this topic for quite some time.
While, the medical definition of pregnancy is fertilization PLUS implantation, the Scriptures are clear that it is the very moment that an egg and a sperm meet which begins a person’s life (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13-16, Psalm 51:5, Job 10:8-12, Job 31:15… ). My old birth control was designed to work by,“preventing attachment of a fertilized egg” which clearly refers to an early abortion to someone who, like I do, believes life begins at conception.
I repented of my decision to have ever taken the birth control pill, and I quickly dedicated myself to the research of medical forms of contraception. As I became aware of exactly how many of the forms of birth control “prevent pregnancy,” my heart became burdened by these methods, the lives that have been lost because of them, and the hundreds of pro-life women who unknowingly choose these options. I would love to discuss a few forms of birth control with you today. My goal with this is simply to present you with information in hopes that you will begin your own research and prayer over this matter.
I truly appreciate your grace.
The intrauterine device, or the IUD, is a very common choice for married women. This contraption is placed, by a doctor, inside of a woman’s uterus in order to “prevent pregnancy.” Be advised, however, that the IUD works primarily as an abortifacient. The Mirena website writes the following on how it works (emphasis mine):
• Thickens cervical mucus to prevent sperm from entering your uterus • Inhibits sperm from reaching or fertilizing your egg • Makes the lining of your uterus thin
Mirena may stop the release of your egg from your ovary, but this is not the way it works in most cases. While there’s no single explanation for how Mirena works, most likely the above actions work together to prevent pregnancy for up to 5 years.
Web MD states (emphasis mine),
[Mirena]… releases the hormone progestin, which causes the cervical mucus to become thicker so the sperm cannot reach the egg. The hormone also changes the lining of the uterus, so implantation of a fertilized egg cannot occur.
The low-dose progesterone only pill, or the mini-pill, is an oral pill that contains only progesterone. This pill operates in a way that is similar to the IUDs, meaning that it too is considered to be more of an abortifacient. This option rarely suppresses ovulation but rather it increases mucus (making it harder, but not impossible, for sperm to reach the egg) and alters the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) so that a fertilized egg (a baby!) cannot implant. Web MD writes this,
Among women who use the progestin only “mini pill,” only 29% did not ovulate (Tayob, 1986). Remember that the progestin only mini pills have no synthetic estrogen, and their doses of synthetic progesterone are very small. Pregnancy is prevented by other, additional mechanisms such as thicker cervical mucus and thinner lining of the uterus.
Drug Facts & Comparisons, a reference book for physicians, states (emphasis mine),
Progestin-only [pills]…alter the cervical mucus, exert a progestational effect on the endometrium, apparently producing cellular changes that render the endometrium hostile to implantation by a fertilized ovum (egg) and, in some patients, suppress ovulation.
This is important for pro-life women to know because the mini-pill is the only oral pill that is “safe” to take while breastfeeding, but, again, the primary function of this drug is not to prevent the release of an egg! Rather it prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg (a baby!).
The Combination Pill:
Despite my testimony above, this certain pill brings about quite a bit of debate. While Christian communities openly voice their objection to the use of IUDs and the mini-pills, there is silence on this particular form of birth control. Understandably so, because this version of medical birth control actually tries to suppress ovulation, which of course would truly prevent a conception from taking place.
Yet, I would encourage pro-life women to prayerfully consider the consequences of this choice!
My personal hesitations with this form of birth control stem from is the ugly truth that a person cannot guarantee that it will successfully work in their body, every month (or even one month), by preventing ovulation. Each person has a different weight, different metabolism, different sleep cycle, and other factors which will make their body uniquely react to the chemicals within the pill. In addition, each month might bring about changes in how your body responds to the drugs depending on what other medications you might be taking, your caffeine intake, or stress level. The bottom line is that, despite the claim that it tries to prevent ovulation, no one can guarantee that it will. This pill is designed to work by three primary methods and one strategy is by thinning the lining of the uterus preventing a fertilized egg (a baby!) from implanting.
I realize that this reality is hard to swallow. Much harder than a daily birth control pill. Once we accept this truth, we must act upon it and, frankly, that is sometimes very difficult. Methods of birth control that do not bring harm to a newly conceived baby (NFP, Creighton Model, and barrier methods) aren’t as easy or convenient, but I don’t recall many times in the Bible where God encourages His followers to take the easy route. A couple might not feel ready or able to handle another baby, but Randy Alcorn so eloquently writes,
We have to weigh the increased “risk” of having a child, a person God calls a blessing, against the possibility of killing a child, an act God calls an abomination. No matter where a Christian stands on the birth control issue, we should surely be able to agree that the possibility of having a child is always better than the possibility of killing a child.
Allow me to clarify, I am not against “family planning” and I do not believe every family is called to have a large number of children. However, with a Scripture-supported conviction that life is valued from the moment of fertilization, I believe we must aline our pregnancy prevention choices with our beliefs.
Simply put, options that don’t honor or protect life cannot be options.
Call to Action:
It would require much more than one blog post to accurately discuss this topic with the depth it deserves. And, honestly, I hope that you don’t take me at my word. My prayer is that you will do the research because, truly, it speaks for itself. This topic will require work and an open mind, but if you firmly believe life beings at conception and that all life deserves protection, then the investigation is necessary.
For this post, I tried to site medical publications in order to keep denominations and other religious voices from being a distraction. I focused exclusively on the mechanisms behind medical birth control to see if they align with the infallible Word of God. However, for those who may be interested, here are a few publications from a Christian viewpoint:
If you are struggling with this topic, you aren’t alone! It is a hard one, but it is of upmost importance. I would encourage you to go to God’s Word. What does It say about children and the gift of life? Base your pro-life definition from the Author of Life Himself.
Once you have a Scripturally clear statement of belief, prayerfully begin researching birth control methods. Check out the listed resources above, find research papers on your own, contact a trusted pastor, and speak with your doctor. I will caution you, that some doctors (and ministers too) may not completely understand the involved ethical stake (For example, there is a OBGYN doctor at my church, who used to believe birth control to be a sensible option because her training never suggested otherwise. However, after several patients asked her about the possibility of it causing abortions, she did her own research and, today, is fully convinced that it can and does cause the loss of newly conceived life).
Closing Thoughts:… His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in, indeed I cannot. ~Jeremiah 20:9
The Lord laid it on my heart to write this blog post months ago. As I have waited for His timing to publish it, He has increased my passion for this topic. I can honesty say that my zeal is similar to a fire shut up in my bones and I am truly weary of holding it in. Yet, I am fearful too! Have I written my views clearly and wrapped my words with grace? Did I come across as arrogant or simplistic? Will I be ripped to shreds in the comments? Please know this was not an easy post for me, but as with birth control options, the Lord doesn’t usually call us to the easy!
So, it is with trembling that I publish this post and it is with trepidation I that ask for your thoughts.
What does being Pro-Life mean to you?
A follow-up post has been written and can be found here!