When I wonder how many church ladies in Fort McMurray have had abortions, I do not mean that I wonder how many have gone to a clinic and have received a dilation and curettage, a suction aspiration, or a prostaglandin chemical abortion. While I’m sure there are some who have gone that route and have killed their babies in that manner, I would hope that they would be in the vast minority, and I’ve no doubt that most if not all of the Churches in the city would condemn and preach hard against such an action. Instead though, I am referring to something that is all but too common in the Christian Church today and likely never preached about- which is the abortifacient element in hormonal birth control.
Using contraceptives and birth control as a Christian believer is quite the new concept. In fact, up until the 1930′s, every single Christian sect and denomination for the last two-thousand years had condemned it. Anglicans were the first to accept it’s usage, announcing in 1930 at the Lambeth Conference that contraception would be allowed in some circumstances. They eventually caved and promoted its wholesale usage, and over the next four decades the rest of the mainline Protestant churches followed suit and turned it from what had once been considered a horrific sin into a novel convenience that is accepted and encouraged.
The recounting of that history speaks to the fact that for the modern Christian couple, birth control, and specifically hormonal birth control, is a non-issue. There is no morality attached to it anymore. There is no question as to whether it might be a bad thing. The only consideration to its “badness” involves the side effects. They don’t wrestle with whether or not it might be sinful or might have farther reaching implications, but rather they ponder and wrestle with which brand will cause the least nausea, the least weight gain, and the least impact on her sexual libido.
But here’s the dirty little secret about hormonal birth control pills- many of them have an abortifacient element to them. Birth control pills act in three basic ways, and using a combination of varying doses of estrogen and progestin-
- They suppress ovulation. That is, they prevent the woman’s body from releasing an egg.
- They thicken the woman’s cervical mucus, which makes it more difficult for sperm to reach the egg.
- They alter the lining of the uterus and create a hostile environment so that the zygote [fertilized egg, the first stage in the life of a human being] cannot implant.
My concern in this is not with the first two points. Those are the primary mechanisms whereby most pills work and function, and they are not abortive. But there is a reason why hormonal birth control is so effective, 95-99 % or so, and that is because many of them have a back-up method, a fail safe if you will, and we see how this works in the third statement. To make the point even clearer, the developing baby receives his/her oxygen and nutrition through the uterus, so if the zygote-baby cannot implant, he/she starves to death. This is, therefore, an abortion. This is no secret and this will be right on the labels of the birth control pills. In fact, here are a few sources which say as much-
“Hormonal birth control pills work by reducing and thickening cervical mucus to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. They also keep the uterine lining from thickening, which prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.” -FDA Website
Both combo and mini pills have the potential to “prevent fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus” -Planned Parenthood, “You and the Pill”
“Even if ovulation and fertilization do take place, hormonal methods provide another method of protection: changes to the uterine lining. … the usual hormonal variations are masked, and the lining rarely has a chance to develop enough to nurture a fertilized egg.” – Physicians Desk Reference Family Guide to Women’s Health
If life does in fact begin at conception, you simply have no way of knowing how many of your fertilized eggs you are destroying and aborting. Whether or not that is your intention, that’s what you are inevitably doing. You have no way of knowing whether or not your hormonal birth control worked this month by suppressing ovulation and preventing conception altogether, or if in fact the egg and sperm were joined in conception, and then starved to death because you purposefully made your uterine walls a nightmare to grow and live and thrive in. I’m not saying that it is common. In fact, it is probably quite rare, statistically speaking. But even if it’s happening a fraction of the time, is it worth the risk?
Which begs the question- if life begins at conception, and the pill at least some of the time works by introducing elements that destroy a fertilized egg, why are so many women in church on the pill? How many of them are unknowingly aborting their babies each year? How many, in an effort to control the amount of kids God blesses them with are in fact destroying some of the children that God blessed them with? And now, more importantly, what are they going to do now that they know that’s what they’re doing?
I’m not suggesting that it’s happening every time, but it is happening some of the time, and that should be enough to give every woman pause. And it should give every pastor pause, to think to himself whether or not he is serving the best interests of his flock when he says nothing as the women in his church commit this grave sin. Hormonal birth control is not a morally neutral thing, not if it destroys life. It is not a non-issue, not if it is systematically making it impossible for conceived life to implant, no matter how minutely and infrequently that happens. There are deep, hard questions which arise out of it, ones that can either be a balm or a curse to their spiritual life, and I pray that these Church ladies who are contributing to the abortion of their children, as well as their husbands who are equally responsible for their fertility and the choices they make regarding it, would not violate their conscience for the sake of convenience.