Below is an article I originally wrote while still in Bible College in the UK. It was an exercise in writing a research paper. However I still very much advocate the conclusion I came to at the end of the research, and publish it here on my blog to inform and educate. I know many of my friends, who do not always share my conclusions, read my blog. To those who currently disagree with my conclusion I can only recommend that you do your own further research into this subject. For all my readers may I state from the beginning it is not my aim to condemn nor judge any one, merely to inform. Whatever conclusion or decision you make in this area, may it be informed rather than just emotional. May the Holy Spirit guide each and every soul who reads this article.
Is the birth control pill suitable for Christians?
This article will present my findings on the birth control pill. I will explain what the birth control pill is, and how it works. I will then present what the Bible says in this area. Finally I will look at the implications for Christians as a result of this research.
The Birth Control Pill
The birth control pill, or oral contraceptive, is a pill containing artificial progesterone and estrogen. It is taken daily by women to make them temporarily infertile. The progesterone and estrogen act in a way that the natural hormones would when a woman is pregnant.
The effectiveness of this pill, when administered properly is commonly known to be between 95% and 97%. However the cause of this effectiveness is a complicated matter. There are several methods known by medical science that contribute to the overall effectiveness of this medication.
How does it work?
The most commonly known and understood method of this pill is that it stops ovulation. By tricking the woman's body into thinking it is pregnant, it will stop the ripening and release of the ovum. If there is no ovum there can be no conception. In this method it is truly a contraceptive.
This first method of contraception is the one which is explained to most women when they start taking this pill. It is the main selling point by the pharmaceutical companies who manufacture the drugs. What is not explained, however, is that this is not the only method by which these pills work.
The second method employed by this medication is cited in the Physician's Desk Reference to "include changes in the cervical mucus," (2461) which increase the difficulty of sperm entry into the uterus. This would also inhibit conception from happening. If there is no sperm there can be no conception. Once again this is a true contraceptive.
These first two methods are not the only ones which contribute to the known effectiveness of this medication. It is these other, less well known, methods that may cause the greatest concern for us as Christians. What is not widely known by the women taking these pills is that there is a third commonly acknowledged method contributing to the effectiveness of this pill. Again according to the Physician's Desk Reference this pill causes "changes in the endometrium which reduce the likelihood of implantation." (2461) In this case there has already been conception. The new child is now approximately six days old when it enters the womb and begins to implant in the endometrium. This method is not a true contraceptive, it is abortive.
In his book Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? Randy Alcorn quotes part of an interview with Richard Hill, a pharmacist who works for Ortho-McNeil, one of the largest pill manufacturers. Referring to the third method of these pills and how true it is Richard Hill states:
"It's observable. We know what an endometrium looks like when it's rich and most receptive to the fertilized egg. When a woman is taking the Pill you can clearly see the difference, based both on gross appearance and under a microscope. You can actually see what it does to the endometrium and it's obvious it makes implantation less likely. The only thing that's theoretical is the numbers, becuase we just don't know that. (27)
However even if the determined little child does manage to implant in the hostile and atrophied endometriun there is a forth way in which the pregnancy may not go ahead. There is not enough nourishment for the child until the placenta is formed. The baby literally starves to death, resulting in a premature end of the pregnancy. Once again this is not a true contraceptive, as there has already been not only conception, but also implantation. This method is also an abortive.
If this was not enough of a challenge to a new life, there is yet another method by which a pregnancy may not go ahead. The artificial hormones are also known to sometimes speed up the fertilized egg's travel time along the fallopian tube so that it still too immature to implant when it does reach the uterus. In a normal drug free body the new child will enter the uterus, or womb, during the sixth day after conception. It will then spend the next week or so implanting itself into the endometrium, from which it is nourished during this early stage. If the child is forced through into the womb before the sixth day it will not be developed enough to begin the implantation process. Instead of implanting this new child will instead pass out of the womb and be lost before the mother is even aware that it exists. Once again conception has already happened. This is now a third abortive mechanism of the Pill.
It is known that all of these mechanisms fail for a minimum of 3% of women who take this medication as prescribed. The total failure rate is even higher for those who fail to take it every day it is required. Since it is known that all five mechanisms fail at some point it is not unreasonable to assume that there will be an unspecified percentage in which only the first method of stopping ovulation fails. Subsequently there will then be another unspecified percentage in which the second method also fails and therefore conception takes place. Whatever the percentage of failure is attributed to each of the remaining mechanisms, one thing is clear; they all involve the ending of a new life. Together they form a third unspecified percentage in which new lives are arborted, and usually before the mother could even be aware that they exist. Even if the percentage of failure concerning the prevention of ovulation is very small, and the failure of the cervical mucus narrows that percentage of potential conception even further, is it still possible for someone who obeys the teaching of Scripture to use this form of birth control with a clear conscience?
What does the Bible say?
In order to answer the question above we must turn to what the Bible has to say. As the inspired and inerrant Word of God it must be our final guide when making moral decisions. I will be quoting from the Authorised Version (KJV).
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Jeremiah 1:5
Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. Ezekiel 18:4
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud lok, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood... Proverbs 6:16-19
Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleaness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of which I tell you before, as I have also told you in times past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21
According to James Strong the word translated witchcraft in the Galatians passage is the Greek word "Pharmakeia" which means medication. This is a reference to the practice in ancient times of inducing miscarriages through the taking of herbs or poisons which were known to have this effect. Chemical abortions have always taken place. The only difference with our modern methods is the rate of effectiveness.
We can also see from the Scriptures above and many, many more that God alone is to be the giver and taker of life. He knows us intimately like no other from the very second we start growing at conception. He has a plan for each and every life that is conceived and that plan is a good thing. Children are a blessing He gives to us.
What are the implications for us?
When we consider all of the above evidence we are faced with deciding what our actions will be. Regardless of our opinions of birth control in general, we must decide on the appropriateness of this particular form of birth control.
If a married couple chooses to remain childless, or to limit the number of children they have, the decision should be shaped by principles which honour God and not by selfish motives. No family planning that invloves the sacrifice of one of the members of that family can please God.
This is not just an issue for women. It takes both a man and a woman to fertilize the ovum and begin a new life. Within the context of a Christian marriage the woman is not alone in making reproductive decisions. It is the man who is head of the family unit. It is the man who has been ordained of God to be leader in the family home. It is the man who will be held accountable for the decisions that are made as a couple. Both the husband and the wife need to make these decisions together.
For those couples who want to control the size of their family there needs to be some soul searching. Is this what the LORD really wants for you? Search the Scriptures honestly and openly at the same time as you search out alternative methods of contraception. Why would God's blessing and gift of life be the wrong choice for you? In our time and culture we have forgotten that children are a blessing and gift from God. Children are not the inconvenience we all too often treat them as.
We can see from the medical evidence that the Birth Control Pill (and all other hormonal contraceptives) works in five different ways. While we can never know the actual percentages we can be certain that there is a possibility each time it is used that it will cause a very early abortion.
We can also see that the Bible is very clear in how it views Children. They are a blessing and a gift from God. He knows them right from the second of conception. They are precious to Him. He views the taking of life of one of these unborn children as an abomination.
As those who seek to live in a way that honours and pleases God we need to seriously consider the choices we make in reproduction. Why are we seeking to limit God's blessings in this area of our lives? Is it a matter of convenience and selfishness? Are we honouring our God and Creator in this part of our lives?
Alcorn, Randy. Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? Eternal Perspective Ministries: Gresham, Oregon. 1999
Barron, Shirley L. "Searching for Life's Beginning." Christianity Today Nov. 1991: 41
Billings, Dr Evelyn L. and Billings, Dr John J. The Billings Ovulation Method. Ovulation Method and Research Centre of Australia
Burtchaell, James Tunstead. "Make Room for Baby." Christianity Today Nov. 1991: 42+
Evans, Debra. "The Price of the Pill." Christianity Today Nov. 1991: 39+
Grenz, Stanley J. "Family Planning and the Plan of God." Christianity Today Nov. 1991: 35+
Smith, F LaGard. When Choice Becomes God. Harvest House: Eugene, Oregon. 1990