Some wonder if it’s OK to use birth control as a Christian.
When I think of contraception, a number of images come to mind:
- An 18-year-old girl a few weeks prior to her wedding date asking if birth control pills cause abortion, because she believes abortion is wrong
- Living just a couple miles from the high school with the highest student pregnancy rate in the state, and seeing those students in my practice
- A frightening text message from someone close to me telling of his soon-to-be wife’s pulmonary embolus (blood clot to the lungs) soon after starting birth control pills
- The college student in my exam room wanting a different birth control method that will make next school year “easier”
- The 25-year-old single mother with three children on public assistance, trying desperately to just survive
Talking about contraception is often an emotionally charged issue. Most of the heat has little to do with the medical or scientific facts involved. Briefly put, when egg and sperm come together in a woman’s reproductive tract, pregnancy can occur. Interrupt any part of that equation and it won’t occur. Although new life is a mystery, it’s no mystery how pregnancy happens.
But you didn’t read this far to find out about the medical facts of contraception. There are other sources for that: WomensHealth.gov is reasonably complete. The debate really has nothing to do with birth control. The debate has to do with sex.
Again, it’s simple. No sex: no pregnancy. No sex: no need for birth control. Have sex: pregnancy is possible.
But is the answer ever that simple? What do you say to:
- The mother trying to decide whether to give her 15-year old daughter birth control, knowing many of her classmates are sexually active. Will that encourage her to become sexually active also? If she doesn’t give her birth control, will she end up raising her grandchild?
- The student coming for birth control who doesn’t want her parents to know. She has no moral objection to being sexually active, and feels using contraception would be the responsible thing to do. Am I condoning sinful behavior by providing her with birth control?
- The couple who believes contraception goes against God’s design for sexual intimacy in marriage. They aren’t ready for children emotionally or financially, and yet feel that abstaining from sexual activity for significant periods of time is negatively impacting their relationship.
Those are just a few of the morally charged situations I encounter every week. If you’ve read this far, you want to know how I deal with these issues, and what I tell patients. As a Christian, as a gynecologist, as a minister, what’s the RIGHT thing to do?
Three principles I base my position on:
- God created sex. Sexual intimacy is to be ravishingly enjoyed between a man and a woman in marriage. Procreation is a positive result of sex, but is not the only Biblical reason for sex.
- I’m not God. Each human being is personally and ultimately responsible before God for their choices and behavior. When appropriate I can speak truth, but I’m not Junior Holy Spirit. I am only one point along each person’s journey.
- God is patient. We are all broken, sinful, human beings, and God will meet each person wherever they are open to it.
So, I will tell the mom that if she and her daughter decide that birth control is the right option for them, I will provide it. But I will also look that 15-year-old girl in the eyes and lovingly but clearly tell her that this is not a license for sexual activity. I will ask her to talk openly with me, with her mother, or with other responsible adults about her choices. And I will ask her about peer pressure, and tell her clearly, “It’s OK to say NO!”
I will tell the student coming for contraception that sexual activity has many consequences, and that pregnancy is not the only one. I will affirm her for taking responsibility for preventing pregnancy. But I will also talk with her about the long-term emotional impact of sexual activity, the risk of STDs, and her value as a growing woman with a future.
And I will tell the starry-eyed young married couple that God invented sex for them to enjoy. If before God they believe they cannot use contraception, I will help them use the rhythm method, and explain the limits of its success. And if they choose a medical contraceptive method to plan their family, I will affirm to them that I believe they are honoring God in that part of their marriage in doing so.
So you see, it’s much more than the birds and the bees. Sexuality touches all the deep aspects of our being, and I have both the challenge and the privilege of helping women address it all.
Your turn: Have I left out any important aspects of the contraception controversy? What would you tell any of the women I’ve described? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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