Abortion and the Birth Control Debate
The following concerns were expressed in a recent email. My response is below. The first of Abort73's three birth control pages can be found here.
I was so excited to come across this website as a new pro-life site I had never seen before. I am a big supporter of the pro-life movement among college students, particularly on my campus at Arizona State University. I also work with a teenage youth group where we frequently discuss social issues such as abortion. The premise behind the shirts really interested me as well. I like the idea that someone's interest would be piqued to come to the site and research the issue themselves. I was all ready to order shirts, when I came upon the birth control issue. I checked out your website's opinion on if it is ok to use birth control, and was dissapointed to find what I half expected to be there... As a christian, I know that God established sex for marriage. Sex is to be had only within marriage, in which two people can speak with their bodies what their covenant before God is saying. Every act between a man and wife needs to be open to life. Artificial contraception deteriorates marriage in so many ways. Why is adultery more prominent now than in the 1930's? We have contraception to thank for that. How can we put an end to abortion when we are saying that we are only open to lives that we are "ready for" and "prepared for"?; To say that the Lord can work through contraception if that is his will is laughable. God works in us when we work. We cannot sit back and try to make our life convenient by contracepting, and then say that God can work through it if he wants. Our hearts are saying no to life! How can God work when our hearts are cold to the purpose of sex. Sex was God's idea, and it has a purpose. Society is killing women, attacking women, and abortion is not the only way. Contraception makes women feel used, and takes away from a woman the most special thing about her: Her ability with God's help, to imitate God's creative power in making a new life. Let us who are trying to speak the truth to young people speak the whole truth! That sex is for marriage, and that if we are PRO LIFE we need to be PRO all life, not just those that are convenient.
C----,Thank you so much for taking the time to express your concern about the Abort73 website. I appreciate your conviction and will do my best to respond appropriately. I don't know if any of this will be new to you, but it may give you a better feel for why we've taken the stance that we have. I hope it's helpful, and I hope it gives you something to think about.
Your argument begins by making an implicit distinction between "artificial" contraception and "natural" contraception (when you say that "artificial contraception deteriorates marriage in so many ways"). The implication is that natural contraception (like Natural Family Planning) does not deteriorate marriage. Here's the problem I see with this distinction. Aren't the intended purposes of both artificial contraception and natural contraception exactly the same? Couldn't we accuse both methods of not being "open to life"? Is there any moral difference between a husband and wife trying to prevent a pregnancy by using a condom verses trying to prevent a pregnancy by not having sex? Both methods have the same end in mind. If your argument is, "Contraception is wrong because it attempts to usurp God's creative power," then natural birth-control methods are just as guilty as the "unnatural" ones. Is that not a fair statement?
Think about this. Couple A uses a condom and has sex while the wife is fertile. Couple B doesn't have any sex on the days when the wife is fertile. From a completely "natural" perspective, which couple is more likely to get pregnant that month? This is why I don't think it's "laughable" to reason that it's just as easy for God to override artificial forms of birth control as it is for him to override natural ones. The natural ones are actually more imposing. Ultimately, if it's wrong to use one method, then it's wrong to use both methods. On the flip side, If it's OK to use one method, it should be OK to use both.
The real question which must be answered is this. Is it ever wrong to try and play an active role in determining the size of our family? When God said "Be fruitful and multiply" was that commandment for all people at all times or for a specific time and place? If it is universally applicable, are those believers who are not married in sin for not "being fruitful and multiplying"? Are those believers who are married in sin if they're not having regular intercourse during the wife's time of fertility? Is it wrong for married couples to not take every conceivable opportunity to have sex so as to give God every possible opportunity to grant them the gift of more children? These examples may seem a little over the top, but I use them to illustrate the fact that we do make regular decisions that influence the size of our family. This is not a bad thing.
Since the Bible never condemns birth control, either explicitly or implicitly, we must be extremely careful about the conclusions we draw. We don't use the "just let God decide" rationale in other areas of life, so why should we be compelled to apply it to the question of family size? The Desiring God staff puts it well when they say:
The "trust God, therefore don't use birth control" thinking is based upon the incorrect assumption that what happens "naturally" reflects "God's best" for our lives, but that what happens through human means does not. Why should we conclude that the way to let God decide the size of our family is to get out of the way and just let nature take its course? We certainly don't think that way in other areas of life. We don't reason, for example, that we should never get haircuts so that "God can decide" the length of our hair. Farmers don't just let the wind plant their crops in the fear that actively regulating what is grown on their land somehow interferes with the provision God wants to give them. And a family doesn't just trust God to provide food for by waiting for it to drop from the sky, but instead goes to the store to buys it. God ultimately determines everything that will happen, both in nature and in human decisions, and He brings His will to pass through means. Human activity does not therefore interfere with his plans, but is instead itself governed by Him as the means to bring to pass His will. Hence, we should not conclude that what happens apart from our planning is "better" and more reflective of God's desires for us than what happens through our planning. God very often causes us to plan as the means towards improving our lives and advancing His kingdom purposes.
Finally. and even if you're completely unconvinced by what I've shared, here's one more thing to consider. You've stated in your email that you were ready to purchase and utilize some of the Abort73 Gear before you came to our section on birth control. You've also indicated that you would not recommend that anyone visit the Abort73 website (again, because we've failed to condemn non-abortive forms of artificial birth control). Here's what I want you to think about. What is the fallout of your decision? Is the fight against abortion at Arizona State University being helped or hindered by your stance?
If you refuse to associate with any pro-life organizations that don't universally condemn all forms of artificial contraception, you're basically limiting yourself to Priests for Life and the American Life League, and even they don't quite fit the bill since they do link to and work with groups that don't condemn all forms of birth control. More to the point, even if you did want to drive as many ASU students as you could to the Priests for Life website, how would you do it? How would you let the students know about the site and make them curious enough to check it out, without simply writing it off as a religious opinion that doesn't apply to them? And even if you could get them to the website, how receptive would secular, agnostic students be to its message?
More to the point, and I really will close with this. There is danger in mixing the debate against abortion with the debate against contraception. They are not the same debate. Marvin Olasky, in his book, Abortion Rites (the best and most complete picture of abortion history that I know of), observes the following in his description of the social climate leading up to Roe v. Wade:
Conservative forces, in short, could have built an alliance with moderates by accepting contraception among the married and showing that distribution of contraceptives to the unmarried resulted in more abortions rather than less. Instead, moderates who wished to use birth control within marriage and saw no Biblical proscription of it found themselves allied with forces of the left that demanded absolute freedom for individuals. Patterns of alliance thus formed would continue through the 1960s and make possible an eventual abortion victory.
The disagreement about the acceptability of non-abortive forms of birth control so split the "pro-life" community that abortion was able to sneak in the back door, rather than being met head on by a united front. The same danger exists today, and Scott Klusendorf addresses it well in his article, "Why Pro-Life Advocates Should not Link Abortion to Contraception in Public Debates". It is certainly your prerogative (and responsibility) to decide which ministries you will and will not associate with, but be careful you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. There are certain things for which we must have consensus, but I don't believe this issue is one of them.
Thanks for your time...
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.