Scary stories from a lovely place

Slice o’ Opinion Pie Sunday: Contraception

Too often I peruse a blog or two that are written by women who are housewives, homeschool their kids, are conservative in every way (though they’re into war) and are anti all forms of birth control. They are such firm believers in allowing God to determine how many kids they will have (lots) that they think it is a major sin to use any kind of birth control (even non-chemical methods) and they talk as if this decision is tantamount to believing the gospel of Jesus. While I don’t agree with them, I think it’s an interesting debate, so I’m joining in.

The notion that using birth control is sinful and could somehow prevent God’s will from taking place is wrong and also a little sad. If a cocktail of chemicals or a thin piece of latex can thwart God then I’m afraid he’s not worth believing in. To think such a thing is nonsense. One of the many wonderful things about following Jesus is that we have God’s word, the bible, to guide us and explain life for us. But as the bible was written in a specific context it takes those of us reading it today a bit of thought to work out how it applies to twentieth-century decisions. The apostle Paul writes in Galatians that it was for “freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5v1). We have freedom, because Jesus has saved us, to make decisions in all areas of life.

The end? In a way, yes. But, this freedom, coupled with the prevalence and ease of accessing birth control doesn’t mean we should run wild with it without putting in some thought. In fact, I think it is these factors, the ease of access and proliferation of birth control, that makes it easy not to think about it. It’s too easy to decide you’re going to start having sex (when you get married if you’re a Christian usually, but that’s another matter) and naturally assume that the next step is starting birth control. Perhaps it’s worth thinking about what birth control, and for the sake of brevity, mainly the Pill, actually does, what it means for your relationship and why you want to use it in the first place.

The reasons for using birth control are obvious – to stop yourself getting pregnant before you are ‘ready’ to be a parent. That is a good consideration. Having kids is hard, and it’s a big responsibility. Often though I hear people talking about lifestyle concerns rather than maturity ones. With the ever-increasing rates of infertility and people taking longer to conceive than planned parenthood is often delayed much longer than initially intended. (1 in 6 couples in Australia are infertile, 15-20% in South Africa and it increases with age. Interestingly South Africa has the lowest rate of fertility in Africa, just 3.1% and it’s declining).

In 1961 the oral contraceptive pill became available easily for consumers. Besides being easy and convenient (and available for free in some countries), the Pill was to revolutionise the way men, but particularly women were able to approach sex. Now women could be in charge of birth control, without having to worry about the man’s opinion or deal with less appealing barrier methods. It was an important moment in feminist history. But, if I may be personal for a moment, this is one thing I really disliked when I was on the pill. I didn’t like that in the end contraception was all up to me, rather than it being a joint effort. The weight of responsibility was too much. When I forgot to take the pill I was causing a huge risk to our plans (whatever they were). With such power comes responsibility.

Finally, how does it actually work? According to my research (reading on the internet and talking to my doctor) the pill has 3 birth control functions (a few have a fourth function which effects the fallopian tubes, but this is rare). First it stops ovulation. So the egg shouldn’t be hanging around in the first place, but frighteningly, ovulation still does occur 2-10% of the time (source – Second the increased amount of hormones in the body thickens the lining of the cervix so that it’s harder for the little guys to move around. Finally the hormones also act to thin the lining of the uterus, so if the first two methods fail and an egg and sperm do manage to find their way together, thus making a little person, it will struggle to properly implant in the woman’s womb. It’s a last line of defense.

It’s this final function of the Pill that should concern a Christian. (If you don’t believe that a fetus is actually a life then it’s a moot point). For reasons that I don’t fully understand, this final function of the Pill is also disputed. From what I can gather, because it is the final line of defense, it’s hard to know how often the Pill does actually function in this way (but how do they tell which of the three functions actually prevents pregnancy each month?). When I was talking to my doctor about it I had to virtually prise the information out of her, even though the pamphlet inside the Pill box she had just given me outlined this third function. Lots of Christians debate this, even Christian ethicists and doctors, so granted, it’s not a certainty. But, if you believe in the sanctity of little lives, it’s a risky possibility worth considering.

It’s pretty easy to research this stuff. Just search birth control or the Pill on google. Or some sites I have found helpful are…..

A good book I read on the topic – ‘Why pro-life?‘ by Randy Alcorn. It also includes a good, but brief, summary of the different claims about the abortive function of the Pill.

And of course, your local doctor will have an opinion too.


6 comments on “Slice o’ Opinion Pie Sunday: Contraception

  1. ellidhcook
    January 16, 2011

    Good choice for week 2 Kim!
    My thoughts are that I appreciate the sentiment of “The notion that using birth control is sinful and could somehow prevent God’s will from taking place is wrong and also a little sad. If a cocktail of chemicals or a thin piece of latex can thwart God then I’m afraid he’s not worth believing in.”
    And I totally agree that it’s not sinful, and that no one should feel that they’re wrong to want to wait a little while before having kids, or wrong to have one or two, rather than 10 or 11! But, if we believe that God’s will won’t be prevented if we use contraception (and I really do believe that – 3 nieces and a nephew as evidence of it!) should we not believe the reverse, that if we don’t use any contraception then his will will still be done? I wonder sometimes about the fact that I think that if God wants the life to happen he can override the chemicals/latex, but I don’t think he’s in control enough to stop conception from taking place if I make no effort to stop it either.
    Still, not exactly something I have need to test at the moment!x

    • kimlovesjozi
      January 17, 2011

      True Ellie. What do you think about Bec’s point below about God using contraception to slow destruction of the world?

      I do believe the reverse, that he is able to not make me pregnant if I don’t use contraception. I think that is also what the inashoe lady would think, but look at all the kids she has! And I think that would become my experience to if I continued to use no contraception. I’m struggling to get my mind around your idea. Maybe he wants us to have loads of kids?

  2. Bec
    January 17, 2011

    I too agree that God won’t be prevented if He doesn’t want to be, I also think Ellie’s point is a good point, it does work both ways.
    Mostly I feel like God would actually want us to be involved in our lives and our decisions… and he definitely wants us to let Him be involved in our lives and decisions.
    Anyway, I think there is other considerations that we need to make when it comes to having kids, like you touched on there are maturity considerations and for some lifestyle considerations etc. but then what about how many kids you have. I know God commanded Humankind to “be fruitful and multiply” but we’ve multiplied to the point that we, particularly we in the developed world, have gone so far that we’re sucking the worlds resources dry. Personally I think having too many kids in today’s world is not being a Godly steward of the resources we have left. God could have stopped contraception from ever being invented if that’s what He really wanted, I know it’s a stretch, but maybe it’s his way of letting us have some control where needed.
    Then there’s your main point of the abortive functions of the pill… which is a whole other matter. I agree Christians… and everyone have it a bit too easy that we don’t really consider this all that well.

    • kimlovesjozi
      January 17, 2011

      Good points McEvoy. I like what you said about God wants us to be involved in our decisions, as we must allow him to be involved. It would be like if you wanted a new job so you quite Anglicare and then sat at home waiting for God to give you a new job, without making any effort. We’re not commanded to be lazy just because he is all powerful!

      If you read some blogs of the people I mention, who are anti-contraception and parents of huge families (and I don’t necessarily recommend you do) they have theories regarding the world’s resources. They claim that having many children doesn’t have to be a suck on resources, and if you look closely at their lifestyles you will see that they live very simply. In some ways I agree with them. I don’t know if it’s having lots of kids that is killing the world, or if it’s the way we raise them and the way we live our lives, particularly in the developed world.

      I remember reading a blog post by a guy who claimed the opposite, that the destruction of the world was actually the fault of people in the developing world because they didn’t use contraception or they didn’t understand family planning and so had lots of kids, many who die, and just generally aren’t good at living in the world. It’s obviously a very objectionable idea and he hadn’t even argued it very well. Typical western-world arrogance.

  3. Bec
    January 17, 2011

    I think the idea that the developing world is sucking the resources is crazy… And I agree, it’s more about the way that we live our lives then how many kids we have (and the developing world are forced to live more simply). I’d be first and foremost suggesting to Christians/people that they should consider how they live before suggesting they don’t have another child.
    But along with living simply comes many other things when it comes to Biblical times or developing nations, including high rates of infant mortality, something that (understandably) those in developed nations would not want to go back to.

  4. fiona lynne
    January 17, 2011

    My two pennies worth – God designed our bodies to work a certain way, and to make babies in a certain way. Yes it is him and only him who ultimately decides when a life is conceived – there is still an element of mystery – but I think he invites us to be part of this decision to an extent. My husband and I are using contraception now and if God over-rided that (!) and we got pregnant, it would an unplanned but lovely surprise.

    But I also feel our choice in this is a gift God gives us as a couple, to learn how to be responsible, make good decisions, trust one another with our bodies. The opposite side of the coin – that sometimes the longed-for child won’t be given – is the harder part to accept, and encourages me to remember that ultimately he is in control, not me.

    On a side note Kim, I also agree about the huge sense of responsibility that comes with the contraceptive pill for women. In a relationship, using either a male or female condom can be both partners’ responsibility but the pill is much more the woman’s and it’s hard to find a way to share that responsibility.

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This entry was posted on January 16, 2011 by in Slice o' Opinion Pie and tagged , , , , , , , .
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