Pastor Bob Hammond | Expanded version published November 2014
In recent years, Christian married couples have increasingly re-visited the debate regarding the use birth control. Some have rejected birth control methods altogether--expressing a desire to give themselves more fully to the LORD’s plan for their families (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 127:3-5). Others have chosen to limit their use of birth control non-hormonal methods -- noting concern about the potential for hormonal methods (e.g. “the pill”) to terminate early pregnancies. To help guide your own decision, consider these four observations:
1. Bearing children is one of the LORD’s primary purposes for marriage.
Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
Also recognize that children are a reward from the LORD and a Godly source of happiness:
Psalm 127:3-5 “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 4 As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. 5 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.”
2. The LORD knows us before we were conceived – and that He has mandated the protection of unborn children (without regard to the stage of development)
The LORD told Jeremiah that He knew Jeremiah “before I formed thee in the belly.”
Jeremiah 1:5 “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.”
Moses taught that a man who harms an unborn child should suffer punishment:
Exodus 21:22-23 “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life."
In Exodus 21, the LORD does not specify the point of development at which an unborn child is afforded this protection. That wasn’t necessary because a fertilized human egg is simply a human being at the earliest stage of development. The LORD knows us before conception and He calls for our protection in the womb. It is clear that the LORD desires that unborn children be protected at all stages of development - from conception forward.
3. If Christians choose to use birth control, they must recognize that many methods are abortive, i.e. they have potential to cause an early pregnancy to be terminated.
One pastor argues that “outside of condoms, most birth control methods are not pre-emptive but rather abortive. They do not prevent conception, but prevent the fertilized egg from adhering to the uterine wall so the pill and such causes an abortion since it kills the fertilized egg.”
o Note that, in addition to condoms, various other so-called “barrier methods” have no known abortive potential (see section #4 below)
o All hormonal birth control methods have abortive potential. These methods include all form of birth control pills and hormonal injections
o An IUD, or intrauterine device, also has abortive potential and should be avoided.
The potential for hormonal birth control methods to cause abortions is described by numerous physicians, including Dr. William Collitron, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at George Washington University Medical Center:
o “The fact that the hormonal contraceptives have an abortive potential is discussed in (a) paper circulated at (the) 1998 midwinter meeting (of the 2,500 member American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists). “… virtually all literature dealing with hormonal contraception ascribes a three-fold action to these agents: inhibition of ovulation, inhibition of sperm transport and production of a ‘hostile endometrium’, which presumably prevents or disrupts implantation of the developing baby if the first two mechanisms fail.”
EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION. Christians should also be aware that the so-called “morning after pill” is also intended to cause the rejection of a fertilized egg rather than to prevent conception:
o Ella® is a newer so-called “morning after” pill. According to Jeanne Monahan, Director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council, "The FDA opted against including the critical fact that Ella can cause an abortion of a baby already implanted in its mother's womb in the drug labeling information.” Other forms of “morning after pills” include Mifeprex (RU-486) and Plan B.
4. Various forms of contraception have no known abortive potential.
Two groups of methods have no known abortive potential: barrier methods and behavioral methods. Christian married couples who choose to use birth control should consider these methods
- Barrier Methods
o Male condoms
o Female condoms
o Cervical cap (including Lea's Shield)
- Behavioral Methods
“Behavioral methods involve regulating the timing or methods of intercourse to prevent the introduction of sperm into the female reproductive tract, either altogether or when an egg may be present.”
o Fertility awareness methods
§ Symptoms-based methods of fertility awareness involve a woman's observation and charting of her body's fertility signs, to determine the fertile and infertile phases of her cycle. Charting may be done by hand or with the assistance of fertility monitors. Most methods track one or more of the three primary fertility signs: changes in basal body temperature, in cervical mucus, and in cervical position. If a woman tracks both basal body temperature and another primary sign, the method is referred to as symptothermal. Other bodily cues include abdominal pain that occurs around the time of ovulation.
§ Calendar-based methods such as the rhythm method and Standard Days Method estimate the likelihood of fertility based on the length of past menstrual cycles. To avoid pregnancy with fertility awareness, unprotected sex is restricted to the least fertile period of time.
o Lactational method
§ There’s significant evidence that the likelihood of a new pregnancy is dramatically reduced while a woman is breastfeeding. The lactational amenorrhea method, or LAM, gives guidelines for determining the length of a woman's period of breastfeeding infertility.