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CHRISTIAN COUPLES AND CONTRACEPTION
by Shaun Willcock
Contraceptive and Birth Control Methods
1) The Rhythm Method:
This natural method of contraception involves abstaining from sexual intercourse during the period each month when the wife is most fertile, and thus most likely to fall pregnant. If properly and carefully calculated, the rhythm method is generally very effective. Few contraceptive methods can be said to be 100% effective all the time; but it has been calculated that the rhythm method is effective 85-90% of the time. There is certainly nothing sinful whatsoever about using this natural method of contraception. Some have argued against it because it means the couple must abstain from sexual relations for a period of time every month, but this is a very faulty argument indeed. 1 Cor.7:5 says that during periods of special fasting and prayer, the Christian couple should abstain from sexual intercourse anyway, so not only is there nothing wrong with abstinence for a time, but it is commanded. Human beings are not animals! They can, and they must, control themselves.
The immoral society we live in today promotes the idea that men and women need sexual intercourse, and must have it. This is an outright lie! Air, food and water are essential to life - not sex. After all, what about single people, widows and widowers? Although the wife should not refuse her husband, or vice versa, the Christian couple should exercise restraint and self-control, in this as in everything else in life. It will not kill them to wait a few days! In fact, there are many times in a marriage when a couple may have to abstain from sexual intercourse: for example, when one of them is very ill, or when the husband is away from home on a business trip, etc. Therefore it is false to say that the rhythm method should not be used because it involves abstinence.
We live in an age of “instant gratification” for everything, but this is wrong, and believers should not be influenced by this ungodly attitude. Those who say that the rhythm method should not be utilised because it involves a period of abstinence are in reality saying that Christians should not control themselves. Even if the couple chooses not to use the rhythm method, but some other form of contraception, they should still practice self-control. Temperance (self-control) in all things is a fruit of the Spirit.
2) Coitus Interruptus:
This was what Onan did. It is a traditional contraceptive method, probably almost as old as the human race itself. The idea behind this is that sperm do not enter the woman’s body, and thus fertilization (conception) is prevented. In reality, however, it is not very effective, for sperm will often succeed in entering. It is certainly not murder, for life only begins at conception, and it is not sinful, but it is certainly a very unreliable form of contraception.
3) Male Condoms:
Condoms of one sort or another have in fact been used for many centuries. Not surprisingly, they were often very primitive and thus very ineffective. Modern-day condoms are, however, as a general rule, extremely effective in preventing conception from occurring (although manufacturing defects do occur). They also have no harmful side effects. Biblically, there is nothing whatsoever to indicate that the use of this particular contraceptive method is sinful. It merely prevents conception from taking place.
3) Female Condoms:
These thin plastic sheaths basically work in the same way as male condoms: they prevent sperm from reaching the female reproductive tract, and thus they prevent conception from occurring. There is nothing sinful about their use.
A diaphragm is a latex cup which covers the cervix, and prevents sperm from reaching the uterus and the fallopian tubes (i.e. the upper reproductive tract). Again, as the purpose of this contraceptive method is simply to prevent conception from actually occurring, there is nothing sinful about its use. In essence, it has the same purpose as a condom.
Spermicides are chemicals that inactivate or kill sperm. They come in various forms: aerosols (foams), creams, vaginal tablets, dissolvable films. They cause the membrane of the sperm cell to break, which decreases sperm movement and the ability of the sperm to fertilize the egg. Although, as with condoms and diaphragms, the purpose of spermicides is to prevent conception from taking place, some possible side-effects have to be carefully considered (some women who use them experience allergies, irritations, and urinary tract infections). If, in order to have sexual intercourse, a woman has to harm her body in the process, this is surely not right! Every Christian should be very careful about putting man-made chemicals into the body on a long-term, regular basis, when it is not necessary for health. As Christians, we must take care of the bodies the Lord has given us.
6) Combined Oral Contraceptives (COCs):
Often the COC is simply referred to as “The Pill.” COCs must be shunned with loathing by every true Christian, as in addition to the possible harmful effects on a woman’s body, what is infinitely more serious is that one of their effects is to actually cause the embryo (an unborn human being!) to die, should fertilization occur! It is to be feared that many women, who rightly oppose abortion, are ignorantly using this popular and commonplace contraceptive, never realising that it kills unborn children just as abortion does!
Let us examine “The Pill” closely. Taken daily, these pills contain the hormones estrogen and progestin, and this is how they work (the first three ways in which they work are bad enough, but the fourth is the most terrible of all):
1) They suppress ovulation or egg release. In essence, they regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle artificially.
2) They thicken the cervical mucus. This makes sperm penetration more difficult.
3) They reduce sperm transport in the fallopian tubes. This is done by changing the motion of the tiny hairlike structures called cilia within the fallopian tubes.
In essence, then, the woman’s body is interfered with, chemically, not because she is ill, or in need of such “treatment” for health reasons, but merely to prevent pregnancy! The human body is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by the Lord our Creator (Psa.139:14). He made the woman’s cervical mucus of a precise thickness; He made the cilia to move in a particular and precise manner; and now she alters these wonderful and precise things, not because they are faulty, or failing to do their God-appointed tasks, but simply because she wants to prevent a pregnancy. And to do this she takes artificial chemicals into her body - chemicals which interfere with the body for no good reason, and which also have some adverse side-effects and some health risks.
Now all this is bad enough. But the fourth way in which “The Pill” works must leave the true Christian with no doubt whatsoever that its usage is utterly immoral and sinful:
4) These pills change the endometrium. This is done by thinning this lining, thus making it less favourable to implantation should fertilization occur, thereby causing the embryo to die!
Let the reader think very carefully about this, and grasp the shocking truth. Let us assume that, despite the other effects of “The Pill,” sperm manages to reach the egg. As stated above, the thickening of the cervical mucus makes sperm penetration more difficult–but not impossible. It can still occur. And the changing of the motion of the cilia means that sperm transport in the fallopian tubes is reduced–it is not halted entirely. It can still occur. So let us assume that a Christian woman is on “The Pill.” She is ignorant of how it really works; she has merely been told that it is an excellent form of contraception, highly effective. But even so, sperm manages to reach the egg and fertilization occurs. As we have seen above, this means that conception occurs. A new human life has begun!
But what she does not know is that “The Pill” has a deadly work to do as well. Not only does it work to prevent conception from occurring, but should conception still occur, it has thinned the endometrial lining, so that the implantation of the embryo is less likely to occur, causing the embryo to die! We must not be misled by cold, technical, medical terminology. In technical medical terms, when a sperm and egg join together at conception, this forms a zygote, which after one week develops into an embryo. The fact is, however, that biblically the zygote/embryo is a human being! From the moment of fertilization, a human being comes into existence! All this was seen above. “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.... Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” – in the zygote/embryonic stage (Psa.139:13,16).
Thus, although “The Pill” may fail to actually prevent conception taking place, it will often succeed in causing the death of the child in its mother’s womb! For the human being, which came into existence at the moment of conception, dies when after a week, that human being in its early developmental stage is unable to attach to the wall of the uterus. When the embryo attaches to the uterine wall, this is called implantation. But by thinning the uterine lining, “The Pill” makes implantation less likely, and so that little human being dies.
The shocking truth of the matter is that the destruction of the zygote or embryo before implantation is not contraception (prevention of conception) - for conception has in fact taken place. It is in fact nothing less than the killing of an unborn human being, a form of abortion! What is so tragic here is that countless married couples, including Christian couples acting in ignorance, are using “The Pill” and thinking all the time that it is merely a contraceptive method, preventing conception from occurring, when in actual fact (at least in some cases) it is killing unborn children in the embryonic stage! Christian couples, who hate the great evil and sin of abortion, may be unwittingly committing abortions themselves. They think that the wife has simply been prevented from conceiving, whereas in fact she may have conceived on a number of occasions without knowing it, and her unborn children were killed because of the deadly effects of “The Pill”.
The information given above will horrify Christian couples who perhaps have been using “The Pill,” and they may be consumed with grief and with guilt. Repentance is certainly necessary, for the use of “The Pill” is sinful, with terrible and tragic results. But what is done in ignorance is not murder. Murder is the premeditated killing of a human being, and the tragic truth is that vast numbers of married couples have no idea that the use of “The Pill” actually results, in many cases, in the death of unborn children. Abortion is murder, when it is deliberate and premeditated; but not otherwise.
Let this also be a grave, grave warning to all Christians to always carefully research things! The present author has often noted, with sadness, how frequently Christians do not bother to do their homework - on a variety of issues. Far too many believers are far too quick to trust the “advice” of doctors. Doctors are human beings, and unless they are true Christians they are motivated by the same worldly outlook as everyone else. And think about it: what is the world’s attitude to sexual matters? It is that nothing must prevent couples from indulging in sexual intercourse whenever they like, and any steps taken to prevent “unwanted” pregnancies are considered as good. And what is the world’s attitude to abortion (for the most part)? It is revealed by the phrase used to describe it: “termination of pregnancy”. It is not seen as murder, but merely as the “termination” of something undesirable. The men and women of the world live for pleasure, for “fun,” and selfishness characterises their lives. It is all about “me,” about what I want, about instant self-gratification. And if swallowing a little pill will prevent the undesirable consequences of their actions, then they are quite prepared to do it, and to give no thought to what that pill actually does. In an age when the killing of an animal (for food or some other legitimate reason) is seen by many people as one of the worst possible crimes, the killing of an unborn human being raises not even an eyebrow. Truly, we live in a world which has lost all its moral bearings. It calls evil good, and good evil (Isa.5:20).
Christians must be discerning! They must think for themselves! Above all, they must study, and compare everything they hear, or read, with the Word of God. They should never blindly follow the “advice” of doctors, or relatives, or acquaintances, or authors, but they should examine all things in the light of God’s Word. “The Pill” is not merely “just another contraceptive.” It may be dangerous to the health of a woman, but it is deadly to the unborn child that may be conceived. Let every Christian woman shun its usage, and repent of ever using it if she did. David prayed in repentance, “cleanse thou me from secret faults” (Psa.19:12) - from those actions which, though sinful, were not known to be sinful when they were committed. The Lord cleanses His people from all unrighteousness when we repent - even from sins committed in ignorance.
7) Progestin-Only Pills (POPs):
Unlike COCs discussed above, which contain the hormones estrogen and progestin, POPs only contain progestin. They work, however, in the same way: they suppress ovulation, thicken the cervical mucus, reduce sperm transport in the upper genital tract, and change the endometrium. In fact, this last effect (the worst of them all, as seen above, because this leads to the death of the embryo should fertilisation occur) is actually more frequent in POPs than in COCs. This is because POPs are more likely to allow ovulation to occur, thus increasing the possibility of a fertilised egg (a human being in its early stage of development) reaching the uterus and attempting to implant there. POPs, therefore, like COCs, should never be used by Christian women, for the same reasons as given above.
8) Combined Injectable Contraceptives (CICs)
These are regular injections of the hormones estrogen and progestin. They work, however, in precisely the same way as COCs, and therefore they must be shunned by all Christians, for precisely the same reasons.
9) Progestin-Only Injectable Contraceptives (PICs):
These are regular injections of the hormone progestin, and they work in precisely the same way as POPs. PICs, then, must also be shunned by all Christians.
10) Intra-Uterine Devices (IUDs):
An IUD is a device which is inserted into the uterine cavity. No Christian woman should ever use it, and not solely because of the slight risk of intra-uterine infection leading to infertility, or perforation of the uterus. There is a far more serious reason for rejecting its use entirely: for like “The Pill”, an IUD has an abortifacient effect. How do IUDs work? They interfere with the sperm’s ability to pass through the uterine cavity, and also with the reproductive process before ova reach this cavity. But, this is not 100% guaranteed, and should fertilization still occur, they prevent the fertilized egg from successfully implanting in the uterine lining. They thicken the cervical mucus and alter the endometrial lining. Thus, as with the oral pills, they prevent the human being in its early developmental stage from implanting in the uterus, which causes the embryo to die. In fact, some doctors place IUDs after sexual intercourse, in order to abort any embryo that may be there! This is, shockingly, referred to as the “morning-after approach,” and clearly shows that an IUD has an abortifacient effect. No Christian couple, knowing these facts, could use such a device. It is sinful.
11) Norplant Implants:
The Norplant system consists of six small capsules, filled with a synthetic progestin, and surgically inserted just under the skin on the inner side of a woman’s upper arm. These implants suppress ovulation, thicken the cervical mucus, reduce sperm transport, and change the endometrium. So once again, this is a method which results in the death of the embryo, if sperm manages to reach an egg and fertilise it. For this reason, this method, too, must be avoided by Christians. It is sinful.
12) The “Morning-After” Pill:
This is yet another utterly sinful method of birth control. In addition to being unhealthy for the body, as it can cause such things as a change to the bleeding pattern, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue, what makes it infinitely worse is that it is also nothing less than an abortifacient drug. There are two ways in which it works. It works to prevent ovulation, so as to prevent conception; but the prevention of ovulation is not guaranteed in every case, and conception can still occur. However, as with other sinful methods discussed above, if conception does occur, this pill works to prevent implantation. If taken within seventy-two hours after sexual intercourse, it makes the implantation of the embryo (zygote) in the uterus very unlikely, thus leading to the death of the zygote/embryo (a human being in its early developmental stage). In other words, the woman conceives a child, but that unborn human being’s life is prevented from continuing. The embryo is aborted. No Christian woman, knowing these facts, could ever make use of such a sinful procedure. Again, this is not contraception, it is abortion. If done knowingly, it is murder.
13) Abortifacient Drugs:
These are such drugs as RU-486 and its derivatives. They block the production of the ovaries’ hormone that is vital to intra-uterine survival, and this causes the spontaneous abortion of the embryo, or foetus, even after implantation (i.e. at a later stage of development than accomplished by the methods given above). In fact, these drugs can even cause the abortion of a child that is several months old in the womb. There is no need to dwell upon it. It is clearly sinful.
This surgical procedure terminates a man’s fertility, by blocking the ejaculatory duct (the vas deferens). It is a very minor operation, requiring only local anaesthesia. There is a slight possibility of problems such as infection, bleeding, swelling, etc.; but these are minor and temporary, and therefore cannot be used as an argument for the procedure being sinful. Some researchers believe there may be a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer for men who have had vasectomies, but other researchers dispute this. There is thus no conclusive evidence for any lasting or major health risks. Is it, then, sinful to have a vasectomy? It is sinful for an unmarried man, as the only reason that he would want to have it is so that he could commit fornication without any consequences. And it is sinful for a married man if he and his wife simply do not want any children at all (see above). But is it sinful if a married couple already have all the children they want?
It is not sinful in itself. Nevertheless, the pointlessness (as a general rule) and the permanency of a vasectomy are two aspects of this entire issue which need to be carefully and prayerfully considered by every Christian couple contemplating such a step. Firstly, the pointlessness of it. Granted, this is certainly the most effective contraceptive method (although even this is not 100% guaranteed!), and if a wife has particular health problems which, if she were to conceive, would put her or her baby at great risk, then one could see real purpose to a vasectomy. But for most couples, is there any point, any real need, to take such a step? Other contraceptive methods (provided they are not sinful ones, as described above) are, especially when used in combination, virtually as effective as a vasectomy, and at least are not permanent (see below). And although there is still a very slight chance of conception occurring when these are used, is this a terrible calamity for a Christian couple if it happens? It should never be viewed as such! They may feel they have all the children they want, but the gift of life is still a gift from God! And if another child is granted them, it should be seen as a blessing from the Lord.
Secondly, the permanency of this particular contraceptive method. Although there is an operation to reverse a vasectomy, its effectiveness certainly cannot be guaranteed, and for this reason a vasectomy should always be considered permanent. Now although, at the time, a couple may not want any more children, circumstances may make them change their minds at a later stage: for example, if their children die (it happened to Job: his children were killed, but later he fathered more - see Job 1:18,19; 42:13-17). Then too, if a man is widowed, and remarries, he would be unable to beget children by his second wife. In such circumstances, he might greatly regret his vasectomy. Nevertheless, the possibility that such circumstances may arise at some future date does not automatically make it sinful for a Christian couple to take a decision for the husband to have a vasectomy, if they already have all the children they want.
15) Female Sterilization:
This surgical procedure terminates a woman’s fertility. It blocks the fallopian tubes, preventing sperm from reaching the ova and thus preventing fertilization. Sterilization should always be considered permanent; for, although there is an operation to restore fertility, it is certainly not always effective. There is therefore no guarantee that the woman may be able to have children later on, if she would like to: for example, if her children die, or if she is widowed and remarries. As with a vasectomy, however, the possibility that such circumstances may arise at some future date does not automatically make female sterilization sinful. But, unlike a vasectomy, female sterilization is sinful for another reason! And that is, the very serious health risks involved. The abdominal organs, glands, intestines, or blood vessels may be damaged. There is also the risk of a blood clot breaking off and clogging an artery in the lungs, pelvis, or legs, and even, on rare occasions, in the heart or brain, causing a heart attack or stroke. And long-term health risks include the following: menstrual cycle disturbances; cervical cancer; problems which would necessitate a hysterectomy; and even ectopic pregnancy.
It is understood that people who are ill take certain risks when they have surgery, but in such cases the risks involved in having the surgery are outweighed by the danger to their health if they do not have it. They have surgery for the sake of improving their health in the long run. But should a healthy woman undergo surgery that can actually cause serious, even life-threatening health problems for her, merely so that she and her husband are able to indulge in sexual intercourse without fear of conceiving a child? Is this a God-ordained method of contraception? The answer is a most definite no! Let Christian couples only make use of harmless, legitimate methods of contraception!
As was stated earlier, the only legitimate contraceptives are those which do nothing more than prevent conception. These are known as “barrier contraceptives.” Any so-called “contraceptive” method which prevents implantation of the embryo in the uterus should conception occur is not contraception (prevention of conception), it is a form of abortion (for conception has already occurred). There is nothing immoral about preventing conception from taking place, provided the method used does nothing more than that; but the moment conception does occur, a new human life begins, and anything done thereafter is nothing less than the abortion of a human being. Many believers, reading this article, may be pricked in their consciences, having been made aware that they have been sinning against the Lord, even in ignorance (the “secret faults” of Psa.19:12, those things which were not known to be sinful at the time). If so, repent! How wonderful is that promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn.1:9). Repent! Forsake all sin! The Lord pardons, forgives and cleanses all who do so. This is His promise to all His people!
The Christian reader is urged to carefully read this article again, taking note of the teaching of the Word of God. The intimacy between husband and wife is a gift from God. In “cleaving” together, they are “one flesh” (Gen.2:24). But all things must be done unto the glory of God, and in accordance with His will as revealed in His Word. What is sinful must always be forsaken. In these ever-changing, often-bewildering times, the Word of the living God, like its divine Author, never changes. It is the rule of faith and practice, for all time, for every situation. Read it, study it, be familiar with it, and obey it! Even in those most private moments, when none but the Lord sees you.