Christianity Today continues its controversial series on contraception. Yesterday, it was a post from Rachel Marie Stone repristinating the legacy of racist eugenicist Margaret Sanger. Today’s contribution comes from a physician giving an overview of the different types of contraceptive devices that Christians have to choose from. What caught my eye in this article is that the author admits that the destruction of a fertilized egg is a potential mechanism of action for at least three of the five methods she lists: (1) the “Pill,” (2) IUD’s, and (3) emergency contraception.
If you read my book, you know that I do not hold the Roman Catholic view that all contraception is unethical. So I am not coming at this as someone who is in principle opposed to all contraception.
Having said that, this article is a bit of a bombshell. Taken at face value, it argues that one of the most commonly used methods of contraception—one that is routinely used by many pro-life evangelicals—is at least potentially abortifacient. If she is correct, that clarifies the moral calculus on the use of these technologies. If she is correct, users of the “Pill” would have to sign-off morally on potential destruction of human life. In other words, her argument would make the use of these technologies incompatible with biblical teaching on the sanctity of every human life.
Her point about the abortifacient effect of the “Pill” is disputed in the wider literature, but this author does not engage that dispute. She simply notes that the destruction of human embryos is possible and that Christians have to figure out which methods fit “within a Biblical world view.” But there is not much figuring out to do if you accept the proposition that these devices potentially end a human life. The moral conclusion is really clear.
After a brief survey of both sides of the issue, here’s how I come down in Chapter 5 of my book:
I see value and merit in the arguments that are made on both sides of this debate. Both sides have proponents who are committed to the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. Yet the poles of this debate are not two diametrically opposed positions. On one side are those who argue conclusively that the Pill causes abortions. On the other side are those who say the evidence is inconclusive. It seems that, at best, the case in favor of the Pill has yet to be proven. In light of this, Andreas Köstenberger’s conclusion with respect to the Pill seems warranted: “If the ‘profound respect for life in the prenatal stages’ of a child’s development . . . holds the moral authority it ought to, then perhaps it is right to reevaluate whether a low chance of aborting one’s child is worth the risk at all.” In the absence of more definitive proof, I conclude that it is not worth the risk.