Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some Thoughts on Birth Control

So, I know that the topic of birth control, contraception, etc., can be kind of controversial. With much of it being a gray area (i.e. not specifically commanded one way or the other in Scripture), I believe we as believers have freedom here. But I think it is important to be thinking rightly about the subject. It was so helpful for me, in the months before my wedding, to have friends who were willing to talk about how to think rightly about contraception and trust God to be in ultimate control of our fertility & children.

As a very helpful Desiring God article states, "The Bible nowhere forbids birth control, either explicitly or implicitly, and we should not add universal rules that are not in Scripture (cf. Psalm 119:1, 9 on the sufficiency of Scripture). What is important is our attitude in using it." This is what I hope we keep in mind with all of our thinking and decisions about birth control.

As we were preparing for marriage, Eric and I read a book called Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception. While I did not agree with everything that was said in the book (and, actually, the authors don't anymore, either), it did help me to think differently about things I had not previously been thinking about thoroughly. It especially helped me to learn some things about one specific contraceptive option: birth control pills. And it helped me think more thoroughly about this question: Is the Pill a contraceptive, an abortifacient, or both?

Let's look more at this question. For me, as I was researching the topic, answering this question was the most helpful part in reaching a decision on our birth control options. The italicized parts of the rest of this post come from an article on the Mars Hill website.

The pill is a categorical term for more than forty types of oral contraceptives, which are also referred to as birth control pills and sometimes combination pills because they contain a mixture of estrogen and progestin. Today, 50 to 60 million women worldwide take the pill each day and it is the most widely prescribed drug in the world.

Now, I already know how my body does not do well with drugs. I tend to be of the viewpoint that, if there's not something wrong with my body, why take drugs to try to fix it? And, even when there is something wrong, sometime the side effects of drugs are worse for me than dealing with the initial problem. So I already lean toward not exactly wanting to mess with my hormones if I don't have to. But that's just my personal opinion on drugs in general. But back to the main issue at hand:

The debate over hormonal birth control, particularly birth control pills, is whether or not it results in the taking of a life by destroying a fertilized egg. 

There is not one but rather three purposes for birth control pills. First, the pill exists to inhibit ovulation, which is its primary means of birth control. Second, the pill thickens the cervical mucus with the effect that it becomes more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg. Third, the pill thins and shrivels the lining of the uterus so that it is unable or less able to facilitate the implantation of the newly fertilized egg.

The bottom line is this, the first two purposes for birth control pills are contraceptive in nature and therefore acceptable for use by a Christian couple. However, the third use of birth control pills is potentially abortive in that it seeks to disrupt the ongoing life of a fertilized egg. 

So, even though it's true that birth control pills' primary use is to prevent contraception in the first place... it is totally possible that there could be times when an egg is in fact fertilized but is destroyed because it is not allowed a healthy environment for implantation. And, when you compare the percentage of women who still ovulate while on birth control with the number of women who have successfully implanted pregnancies while on birth control, it seems that that very well can be the case. That potentiality is not something I'm comfortable with.

After all, even a very liberal pro-choice blog post that is making arguments for the use of birth control pills bases their calculations on the assumption that 100% of fertilized eggs released while on birth control will be rejected by the uterus. Even though eggs will seldom be released, and even more seldom become fertilized while on birth control, there is a potential for a fertilized egg to be rejected by the uterus due to the effects of birth control pills on the uterine lining.

So, what is the conclusion, then? Here I still agree with the Mars Hill article:

That potentiality is incredibly controversial. Whether or not a Christian couple should use birth control pills is a very complicated issue on which faithful pro-life Christians and doctors disagree. As a result, it seems legalistic and inappropriate to declare that use of the pill is sinful. Yet, at the same time it seems that Christian couples need to be informed of the potential abortive nature of birth control pills so that they can study the matter further and prayerfully come to an informed decision according to their own conscience and the leading of God the Holy Spirit.

Learning this was one of the most helpful parts of researching this matter as Eric and I were discussing family planning during our engagement. Neither of us felt comfortable with the abortive potential of birth control pills. And, even if that were not a factor, we still probably would not have chosen them due to the effect of drugs on my body and a desire to only take drugs when they are medically necessary (A sidenote: I realize that sometimes birth control pills are taken by women for other reasons besides primarily birth control, such as to regulate their cycle).

I just wanted to post about this because I found it so helpful to learn about it as we were making this decision. And I have a lot of friends who are engaged, and I want them to have the opportunity to learn more about this topic as well. If you want to read up more, the links I provided are much more well-written and in-depth than this post. I highly recommend them.

And, again, what's most important in family planning/birth control is our attitude in using it (or not using it). After all, it's possible not to use any form of birth control, and still not trust in God's provision, whether in conceiving earlier than we hope, later than we hope, or not at all. And it's also possible to choose contraception out of a desire to be good stewards and still have a trusting heart, knowing that God is ultimately in control and trusting Him to provide for whatever children he blesses us with.

Bottom line, let's prayerfully trust in God's sovereignty and provision and make the wisest decisions we can, holding all our plans with an open hand. 


  1. I so wish someone would have shared this information with us before we went on the pill initially. I ended up talking to my pharmacist about it after we had heard rumblings that it could be an abortifacient, and the pharmacist (who ended up being a Christian) broke down in tears as she shared what you shared here.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Chelsea. I was so grateful that we had friends who wanted to help us make an informed decision about this—several people I've mentioned this to since have been surprised and said they never knew that!

  2. A woman who abstains from the pill for the reason you mention should also, according to the same conscience, not consume caffeine. 200mg of caffeine (two small coffees) per day decreases the implantation rate and increases the risk of miscarriage from 12% up to 25%. I do find it curious that in the ongoing debate there seems to be a huge focus on the pill (which rarely leads to abortion) without much mention of coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, etc. (which frequently cause abortion). :/

    1. That's interesting! I didn't even know that potential of caffeine. I guess that makes sense when you consider that pregnant women are not supposed to have caffeine. That's probably one of the reasons why. I already don't have caffeine for other reasons—now I'm glad I don't!

  3. Thanks for sharing this. I already had my own thoughts on it in the same direction. While the topic is controversial, it is one that couples starting out should most certainly discuss together. I would suggest reading What to Expect Before . . . Great read to give you tips on how to take care of your body and bringing you to your optimal health for conceiving. It talks about the caffeine. Caffeine also effects men . . .

  4. Thanks for the info, Kara—I didn't know there was a What to Expect BEFORE You're Expecting. That could be helpful to read.