Reflections on life, marriage, and purpose...by a young woman who is constantly learning how much there will always be to learn!


Monday, February 20, 2006

The Pill Controversy Amongst Christians

The medical literature describing how the Pill and other hormonal contraceptives can cause abortions is widely available. Even so, many pro-life Christians still use the Pill, and many pro-life pastors still recommend it to young couples. Why is this?

First, some Christians believe that life begins at implantation, not conception, and that drugs and devices that prevent implantation are thus morally acceptable. This position seems problematic for several reasons. Scientifically, to say that life begins at implantation, or any other point after conception, is to draw an arbitrary line. A fertilized egg undergoes no substantial change upon implantation, just as a fetus undergoes no substantial change upon birth. After conception, the progression from embryo to fetus to child to adult is continuous, and all the genetic information necessary for development is contained in the fertilized egg. Moreover, there is no biblical evidence to support the notion that God breathes the soul into the body at some point between conception and birth. A newly fertilized egg is a human body, however small, and wherever there is a living human body, there must be a soul. As the Epistle of St. James states, "the body without the spirit is dead" (2:26). [...]

Second, many pro-life Christians, while believing that life begins at conception, have been misled by confusing terminology used in the scientific literature on contraceptives. In 1976, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists redefined pregnancy as beginning at the successful implantation of a fertilized egg. Under this definition, abortifacient drugs that prevent implantation are labeled as contraceptives. [...]

Third, some Protestant leaders, despite having heard the evidence, choose to believe that the Pill does not prevent implantation. [...]

Is there really a great "controversy" as to whether hormonal contraceptives thin the endometrium, making it hostile to implantation? Outside of Christian circles, I haven't found any. Bethany and I searched the Internet and scoured the shelves of the local Barnes & Noble, reading everything we could find on the Pill, checking the authoritative pharmaceutical guides (including the Physicians Desk Reference), peer-reviewed medical journals, and consumer health organizations. Everywhere we looked, we found the same conclusion: All forms of the Pill thin the uterine lining to prevent implantation.

We must be sensitive on this point because many Christian women use the Pill, and many Christian doctors prescribe it. I am not calling their character into question. But when pre-born children are at stake, how can we ignore the overwhelming consensus in the pharmeceutical literature about how the Pill works? In order to claim that the Pill never acts as an abortifacient, one has to discredit all of the sources that doctors and patients normally rely on for their pharmaceutical information. One must believe that these authorities actually want us to think abortions are taking place when they aren't, something they have no vested interest in doing because most don't believe a fertilized egg is a person. Faced with this evidence, why take the risk?

~Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception

18 Comments:

Blogger Mrs.B. said...

I still haven't read 'Be Fruitful and Multiply' yet so I don't have a lot to add. I recently had a discussion with a pro-life Christian who doesn't believe life begins until implantation. Her argument was that God always refers to 'the womb' and a baby isn't in the womb until it's been implanted. Also, they pointed out that we, naturally, lose fertilized eggs all of the time....are all of those, babies that died?

Again, I am not saying this is what 'I' think because I'm still in the process of sorting all of this out for myself, just sharing what someone said to me and I'm interested in hearing what anyone cares to say about those thoughts. (o:

2:55 PM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Mrs. B- Good input! It's important to try to think these things through!

The Torodes include a quote in their book from Gilbert Meilaender, a leading Protestant bioethicist, who shares your friend's perspective as to why "we might fix the beginning of human life slightly later than conception":

...the fertilized ovum must successfully implant in the uterus before pregnancy is established, and research seems to indicate that as many as half of fertilized ova may fail to successfully implant. If any figure even approaching that is accurate, and if an individual life begins at fertilization, we would be forced to conclude that half of the human race dies after a life of four to five days. Although that is logically possible, it is also rather counterintuitive."

The Torodes respond:

But does the duration of a person's time on earth determine whether he was ever really human? From a human perspective, it may seem "counterintuitive" to speak of a person who lived only four days. But in the eyes of God, what is the difference between four days and four thousand? The fact that many fertilized eggs die before implantation does not mean that they are not living human beings; nor does this mean that it is moral to deliberately prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.

I agree with the Torodes. I don't believe it's my place to determine that life begins at some arbitrary point after conception (the point at which the baby becomes a genetically complete individual). There is no significant transformation that occurs during implantation. So what is this little being if it is not yet alive? And how are we to determine when this little being attains personhood? I believe we must leave the little ones who don't make it to implantation in God's hands, because He is the only one who truly knows the value and purpose of each of His creations!

6:34 PM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Carrie said...

This is such an interesting discussion! I've also always believed that life begins at conception (as in fertilization, not implantation). I only recently came across the viewpoints that Mrs. B mentioned and that you quoted from the Torodes' book. Just out of curiosity, do the Torodes address the issue of how they would feel about a tubal pregnancy, though? I have read where some people feel that they could not morally terminate a tubal pregnancy because it is a human life--however, in such cases there is no way for the baby to survive because it is not growing where it's supposed to, and (from what I understand) usually emergency surgery must be done to save the mother's life, thereby ending the pregnancy. I can see from this kind of example, how the life beginning at implantation viewpoint makes a little more sense--seeing as a baby can't actually develop anywhere except in the womb.

I don't know if what I just wrote makes sense--sometimes my fingers type ahead of my thoughts--but anyway, I just wondered if they happen to address this. And yes, I would be interested in borrowing this book when you're finished, if you're sure you wouldn't mind!

8:17 PM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

Interestsing book, Erin!! Wow, this IS an interesting discussion....so much to consider! GREAT thoughts Carrie!

Ok, here is something else to throw into the mix...many pro-lifers say that they only believe in abortion to save the life of the mother....where does this line of thinking come from? Does the Bible say that the mother's life should be saved instead of the baby's or is this something we just heard and accepted? I don't know...I mean how far can you take this thought....it is hard to wrap your head around. I mean if you're going to only look for the Bible for this answer, does the Bible indicate anywhere that the mother's life should be saved instead of the baby's life? I'm not saying that this is what I think, I'm just showing the progression of this line of thinking.

My other question about this is...if contraception or preventing a pregnancy is so wrong or sinful, wouldn't God have made it more clear in the Bible? There isn't much said about this subject in the Bible.

Also Erin, I'm not sure what your church/theology background is but many of the blogs I read (such as Crystal's) come from reformed theology.....I am not of reformed theology. They take the mandate 'Be Fruitful and Multiply' as a command and I see that as a command that is no longer a command for us. They are (I think) post-millenielist (sp?) and I am pre-millenial. You may ask why does this matter?...because part of the reason they believe in large families is the 'dominion mandate'. They believe that they are going to change the culture and things will get better. I do not believe that this is what the Bible teaches. Maybe this is partly where the difference lies. I don't know where I'll end up with all of this but I do know one thing. I believe my view on children has changed in a large part because of Crystal's blog. She showed me that a large family CAN be a blessing and that children don't have to cost a fortune. I think churches (even the conservative churches) have developed a wrong attitude about children.

Sorry for my long rambling post....it's late and my mind is going 100 miles a minute!! (o:

12:22 AM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Carrie and Mrs. B- The Torodes don't talk about tubal pregancies. I'm certainly not an expert in these matters (haha!), but I'll just say what I think: If both mother and baby would die as a result of pregnancy (such as tubal pregnancy) then of course we should save the mother if possible. It would be wrong to let both die when one could be saved. I don't think this means that the baby wasn't a life...just that there was no way to save it. It's like if a house with two people was on fire and there was only time to save one. You would do whatever you possibly could in that situation.

In the case of "abortion to save the life of the mother"...has everything been done to save both lives if at all possible? I don't know of any cases where the mother MUST die to let the baby live. Usually, the baby cannot live without her, so if she dies, they both die (if the baby could potentially live, than maybe it could be removed and given all the care possible on life support). Again, in a case where they would both die, it seems right to save one if possible. I don't even like to call that "abortion" because it's such a different thing than what people do when they're purposefully killing their babies because they're an inconvenience!

I don't have specific biblical support that I can pull out of my head, but I think what I've said honors and protects life as much as possible in a horrible and tragic situation. It saves the life that can be saved. This is rough to consider, though! It would be so nice if we didn't have to think about such things, and both mother and baby could always be saved. What an absolutely heartbreaking thing to go through as parents. If I was ever in that situation, I'm sure I would have to pray A LOT for God's guidance as to what should be done.

Please chime in on this...anyone who has thoughts on any biblical direction for this type of situation!

Mrs. B- I too wish that God would have given more specific direction in the Bible about things like contraception! It would be nice if we could just point to a verse and say "here's what He thinks!" For some reason He doesn't come out with specific commands about contraception. However, we do know from the Bible that we should honor and respect life and that children are blessings.

Another thing to think about though (I think the Torodes discussed this briefly but I can't remember for sure!), is "natural law". God made created us this way for a certain reason. He didn't provide us with a way to naturally contracept, other than abstinence during certain times (And I struggle with endorsing that method, because the Bible seems to indicate that abstinence should not be practiced within marriage!). This is an interesting matter to consider, because we as Christians are so ready to endorse natural law in the case of homosexuality ("it's not the way God made us!"), etc. *Sigh!* I'm not saying that I personally don't want to use any form of family planning, only that I'm starting to wonder if I have any biblical justification to do so:op

Oh...and I don't come from "reformed theology." To be honest...I'm not even sure what that means or what they believe!:op (I guess I'll have to look into it). I do not belong to any particular denomination. I'm simply a Christian who has always gone to Bible churches. Theologically, I probably line up the closest with the Baptist denomination, although I prefer not to join ANY denomination (that's another discussion!:o).

I agree with you...the Bible indicates to me that things will only get worse. I tend to be pre-millenial as well (although I don't argue with people one way or the other because I don't think it's a life or death issue:op). I have picked up a bit on the "dominion mandate" mindset from reading some of these other blogs, but I guess I don't have a real clear picture. Sure, I think we should strive to influence those around us! But God has already told us that there will be no utopia until He creates the New Heaven and the New Earth. I'm not expecting any!

I agree with you on Crystal. She is an inspiration to view families and children more the way that I think God views them.

Whew...OK, I think I took the cake for the longest comment here so far!:o)

11:05 AM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

Hi Erin,

I agree, I don't argue about being pre-mill either because I, too, don't think it's life or death ...I only brought it up because your belief in eschatology DOES affect your belief in other areas and your interpretation of the Bible.

From what little I've been able to discern from these no birth control discussions is that people believe that only God should control how many children you have. But I'm not convinced that it works that way. For example, my sister-in-law got pregnant while not being married. Thankfully, she didn't abort my niece but I find it hard to believe that she had a baby because God gave it to her. I always looked at it like God set in motion the laws of biology....and the natural law is that if a sperm and an egg meet and all the other things are there then a baby is made. I will concede, however, that there are several instances in the Bible where it is stated that God opened and closed someone's womb....hence, my confusion about the whole thing. Like I said, I wish it was a little more clear. I wish I didn't have to read 'so and so's' book to try and figure it out, I wish I could just use the Bible to figure it all out.

1:36 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

Oh, Erin,

(("In the case of "abortion to save the life of the mother"...has everything been done to save both lives if at all possible? I don't know of any cases where the mother MUST die to let the baby live."))

I went back on Crystal's blog to re-read the discussions on birth control and abortion and Alice (pants that fit) said that her sister almost had to make that choice...she had triplets and developed eclampsia and was told that in order to save her life they might need to abort the babies.....she chose not to and everything turned out ok but I would imagine that sometimes it doesn't. Before reading her story I, too, had never heard of a need for abortion to 'save the mother's life'. Alice's comment is what made me bring up the subject.

1:41 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Carrie said...

Erin, thanks for your well-thought out discussion on this. You hit the nail on the head (in my opinion, at least!) in your discussion of tubal pregnancy, etc. Thank you so much! You have the gift of saying things so well and stating your thoughts so clearly; I wish I was able to do that.

Also I must thank Mrs. B. for pointing out about how reformed theology views "be fruitful and multiply" as relating to the dominion of the earth. I hadn't thought about this before, but I believe you are right. I personally am not a reformed theologian--I guess I'm basically in the fundamentalist, dispensational Baptist camp--but I have run across quite a lot of reformed viewpoints over the past year or so, and find it interesting to see where we differ on certain things.

BTW, Erin, I forgot to comment on your wedding pictures, but I really enjoyed seeing them and you inspired me to post some of my own. I'm off to do that now! :) Take care and thanks again for this very thought-provoking and interesting discussion!!

1:44 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

((I guess I'm basically in the fundamentalist, dispensational Baptist camp))

LOL! Me too, Carrie! (o:

2:12 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

"Much of the current mess that we call evangelicalism is the consequence of the ideas of dispensationalism. If people today denounce dispensationalism it doesn’t mean they aren’t bearers of its fruit. The Bible speaks of all this as sowing and reaping. But it helps to understand that if we sow the wind we will reap the whirlwind."

This is a quote from Carmon's blog. The post is called 'Rotton Tomatoes'. Carmon is of reformed theology in a big way. She's one of my favorites to read but I do keep in mind that we don't interpret the Bible in the same way. Vision Forum is also of reformed theology. I have ordered several of their books but I'm careful what I order because of the differences.

I'm not trying to make a rabbit trail here (I promise), I guess I'm just trying to say that HOW you interpret the Bible DOES affect your view on important subjects. In my humble opinion, doctrine does matter.

ps. I promise I'm not trying to take over your blog, Erin! I have more time for blogging today but I promise this won't be the norm. (o:

2:25 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger zan said...

Ooooh, That was a cool discusion. I am from a Reformed background but am recently reconsidering some of my former beliefs. Mostly because I am married to a Baptist and some other reasons.

I never even considered that your eschatology might influence how many children you would have but it does make sense. I am A-mil (just to make things confusing) I basicall think we are in the end times presently (they started when Christ ascended into heaven and I think the Beast and the tribulation is spiritual and will effect the Church not the secular world.) I don't see us ushering in an earthly kingdom and coverting the globe to Christianity before the return of Christ. I am no authority on the many different views of eschatology so I'll stop there.

Shoot, I forgot what I was going to say...oh, well.

Anyway, Mrs B. one reason I have been shying away from some reformed theology is because of the unkindness to those who are not. I know some people who do not beleive that you can be a Christian and be of a dispensational attitiude. This is wrong and in fact, snobbish. I also think that it encourages faith plus works to obtain salvation. I belive that there are Christians in many denominations and though doctrine is important to learn, it should not seperate true Christians from fellowship with one another.

Oh, I remembered what I was going to say. It is extrememly rare but possible for an ectopic pregnancy to come to term or close to it. It is extrememly dangerous though. (Ectopic means implantation out side of the uterus.) I have heard of women who have had their pregnancy's implant in their abdomine or bladder. These are usually medical miracles if the baby and mom survive and will probably be on the Discovery Channel. TLC actually did a special a few weeks ago on miracle babies and a few were ectopic pregnancies. It was pretty interesting...but, extremely rare.

4:32 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

((I belive that there are Christians in many denominations and though doctrine is important to learn, it should not seperate true Christians from fellowship with one another.))

I agree, Zan! (o:

And I might be wrong...maybe they're A-mill like you are. Since I'm pre-mill I don't know as much about the other two.

5:19 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

First, Mrs. B...how boring would it be if I never received any feedback from you guys! I LOVE reading your comments and being stimulated by the different points people bring up. So no fretting about rabbit trails and such:o) It's all related.

You know...this discussion is making me want to study into the various theological perspectives ya'll have brought into the limelight, just so that I can understand more about how and why people interpret Scriptures the way they do. I must confess an ignorance about things such as "reformed theology" and "dispensationalism". I guess that's what comes of being non-denominational. Even attending Baptist universities, I've somehow missed being informed on all the various facets of denominational theology, beyond the broad categories. But I would like to learn...you all have piqued my interest:o)

Back to the original discussion...you all have brought up so many good points and questions that my head would burst if I tried to explore them all right now:o) Sheesh. About my point on tubal pregnancies when I said "I don't know of any cases where the mother MUST die to let the baby live."--what I meant was: I don't know of any cases where the mother must die to allow the baby to live wherein the baby COULD actually live on it's own. If the baby could live on it's own, why couldn't it just be surgically removed, sparing the mother's life in the process? I don't know if this makes sense, and it could be that I just don't know much about the medical aspects of these situations. Zan is a much better person to talk about that:o)

It is extrememly rare but possible for an ectopic pregnancy to come to term or close to it. It is extrememly dangerous though.

I guess this is the hard part to consider: a woman has to make her choice wondering if her baby could have made it. Wow, that's tough.

1:46 AM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger zan said...

In the ectopic case I learned in nursing school, the woman had not gotten appropriate prenatal care and the doctors did not pick up that the baby was in her abdominal cavity. As long as the placenta can implant itself into an organ with blood supply it can nourish a baby. THe case I saw on the TV special was very unique. THe mother became pregnant with triplets. Two were in her uterus but the third had implanted itself on her bladder. She chose to keep all the babies because they had been trying to have children for awhile. She carried them to about 7 months and they were delivered by c-section. They are all normal 4 yr olds now. Interestingly they never detached the placenta from her bladder because of the risk of hemmorage. Leaving it in her was risky because of the potential for the body to reject it and causing serious infection. THe body, however, absorbed it and she is fine now.

One thing that I thought was interesting about ectopic pregnancies is that if you have had an elected abortion you increase your risk for tubal pregnancy because of the scarring that is left behind. Also some types of birth control increase your risk for tubal pregnancies. I wonder how many Planned Parenthood workers warn their patients about those things. I've never heard of that, even in nursing school. I read that in one of my text books on my own.

FYI: THese are the most common risk factors for ectopic pregnancies: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (which is an STD usually caused by gonnorhea or Climydia and increases with the more sexual partners you have.)

Previous ectopic pregnancy

Surgery on fallopian tube

Several induced abortions

Infertility problems or medications to stimulate ovulation

I thought those facts were interesting because ectopic pregnancies are usually the result of unnatural things. If people would be monogamous, the way God intended, that would help the PID problem, which is the greatest risk factor.

The only woman I ever new who had a tubal prenancy was taking meds to stimulate ovulation. She was a Christian but was not able to ovulate due to a benign tumor that pressed against her pituitary gland. She was able to carry two healthy pregnancies to term, though which is a great blessing.

Anyway, sorry that was so long. I thought it was interesting.

You guys really should study up on different doctrines. It has helped me understand where other Christians are coming from. I ussed to think that all Catholics were destined to hell. However, I have realized that a lot of what I thought Catholics believed is not written in their doctrine. Like I thought Mary was co-redeemer. She is not. Anyway, I know I gave some reformed people a bad name for calling some of them snobbish. However, I was reminded of a fundamental baptist who called reformed theology "heresy." You may disagree with it but it is not heresy. I think the Protestant church has a lot of work to do.

10:12 AM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger Erin said...

Zan- those are such interesting facts about the ectopic pregnancies! It is amazing how many human ailments are often the result of rejecting God's design.

I will definitely have to read up more on some different doctrinal positions. It would be helpful for me to have a better grasp on where others are coming from.

11:15 AM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

Zan, I don't mean to be nit-picky but Baptists are not Protestants. The Baptists never protested because they did not come out of the Catholic church. They have been their own separate denomination even before the reformation. Another interesting fact is that the Baptists never persecuted anyone....however they were persecuted and martyred quite a bit by protestants and followers of Martin Luther. For more info on the Baptists you can read 'The Trail of Blood' on-line. It is long but interesting.

Just so you know, I DON'T believe that Baptists are the only ones going to heaven. I attend an Independent Baptist Church because my husband leads in this, we believe them to be the most doctrinally close to New Testament Christianity and because their history is something to be proud of.

Zan, the area we live in is EXTREMELY Catholic. I have also studied a lot of their beliefs. Most of what they believe is heresy. Such as the eucharist or the doctrine of transubstantiation. They believe the wine and the wafer LITERALLY becomes the literal body and the literal blood of Christ. However when Jesus was on the cross He said 'It is finished'. Praying to Mary (they do so because they say it's no different than asking a live person to pray for you.) They do view her as a mediatrix and they also believe she was sinless. Which is heresy. There is more but I'll stop here. I do believe that there are some saved Catholics who for whatever reason choose to stay in the Catholic church but most Catholics are lost because they don't put their faith in Christ for salvation.

12:02 PM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger Mrs.B. said...

((First, Mrs. B...how boring would it be if I never received any feedback from you guys! I LOVE reading your comments and being stimulated by the different points people bring up. So no fretting about rabbit trails and such:o) It's all related.))

Thank you Erin, you're such a sweetie! I guess I was just nervous because I had left sooooo MANY comments and I didn't want you to think I was trying to take over. I just happen to have some free time this week and have been reading blogs more. Also, this is a subject (birth control) that I'm trying to come to grips with so my mind is going 100/mph trying to take it all in! (o:

I just finished the book "Mother" from Vision Forum. I really like it, it's a fiction book that addresses the subject of allowing God to decide your family size. One of the things the book talks about is, is it right for us to decide who will be born and who won't? They indicate that when we choose to limit our family size that we're preventing children from being born that should have been born. At least that was my take on what they were saying....I could be wrong and if someone thinks I am, let me know....I am referring to pages 196-197. What an interesting subject..so full and complicated!

1:45 PM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger zan said...

Catholics do not believe that the bread and wine actually become Christ's body and blood but that His presense is IN the elements. (That is what a priest told me.)Martin Luther believed that His presence is AROUND the elements.

I don't want to argue about Roman Catholic doctrine. I have been reading a lot about Church history.

They do pray to Saints. I don't think this is right but I don't think they are going to hell for it as long as they don't worship them. I do think we will still be praying in heaven so it makes sense that some people, here on earth, will be asking specific saints to pray for them.

When I said Protestant I meant non Roman Catholics. I have met other Baptists who deny that they are Protestants and I don't understand it. I will check out the web site. My studying of church history revealed that before the Reformation there was only one Church, the Roman one (which had way more error in it then, than it does today.)

As far as persecution. Just about every denomination out there has been under some type of persecution. Even the reformers that I used to admire so much had nuns and priests killed which is terrible. Martin Luther was very against this. Anabaptists (early 16th century) were persecuted, which is the earliest reference of Baptist I can find, by the estblished church.

Anyway I would love to discuss this more but I don't want to take up this blog when the subject was birth control, originally.

10:15 PM, February 22, 2006  

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