Saturday, October 25, 2008

Truth about birth control pills

A sermon and statements by Thomas White, Vice President of Student Affairs at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, has made a media "splash". The area's Channel 8 biasedly reports it this way: Baptist preacher says birth control is 'murder'. WFAA's headline doesn't contribute to reasoned discussion of the matter. Thomas White did not say that birth-control is murder. He specifically referenced a particular effect of the birth-control pill, which prevents a fertilized egg (a human life if life begins at conception) from attaching to the uterine wall, and says that is murder. This is a little mentioned effect of the pill. Since it is not known how often the pill works in this manner, "most health centers will not cite the thinning of the endometrial lining as a function of the pill."

Dr. J. C. Willke writes, "So the widely used contraceptive pills have three functions, any one of which is said to 'prevent' pregnancy. Only two of the functions, however, actually do prevent pregnancy: (1) the barrier mechanism of the mucous plug at the cervix, (2) the suppression of ovulation. The third function, however, does not really prevent pregnancy, but rather produces a micro-abortion at one week of life...In 97 or 98% of the time, the effect is one of preventing pregnancy. But, in perhaps two or more percent of the time, the effect is abortifacient. There is no way in the normal clinical practice of obstetrics of knowing which is happening, or when."
-- From Life Issue Institute


Michael M. said...

All three phases prevent birth 99% of the time. In the 1% of the time it doesn't, it results in a pregnancy. The Pill doesn't terminate birth or conception, it prevents it. White is free to promote his own biased agenda, but why must everyone else be expected to follow it too? Where is the TRUTH in that?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Michael, in the absence of your citing any evidence to the contrary, I will agree with White and the two doctors I asked about it.

Anonymous said...

Why decide that once an egg is fertilized, prevention of pregnancy is murder? It seems someone made a rather arbitrary technical distinction years ago (fertilized egg = baby), and now we no longer question it. Is there anything in the Bible to indicate that fertilized egg = human life, or at least that it is past the point of no return when it comes to prevention of pregnancy?


R. L. Vaughn said...

First. In fairness to Thomas White, I'll give a quote from and link to his blog: ""I do believe that human life begins at the moment of conception. I am opposed to abortifacients which prevent the progression or continuation of life. The third function of most birth control pills prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall and this function is what I referred to as murder." -- Thomas White's blog

Second. On reflection over a couple of day’s time, I personally back off of the term "murder", thinking it too strong a description. Legally, we use the term "murder" as the killing of another human being with malice, forethought, premeditation or murder by intent without premeditation. We use other terms when death is the "unintended" consequence -- perhaps manslaughter, accidental death, etc. Probably there are few if any cases where birth control pills are taken with premeditation and with the intent of killing a child. Rather they intend to prevent the conception of one. I think physicians may be guilty of not being forthright with their patients about all the ways birth control pills work.

To Terre,

I doubt "life begins at conception" is a distinction that we no longer question. In fact, I can readily think of at least four views about when life begins. I'm sure there are others.

1. Human life begins at conception.
2. Human life begins when it is "viable" life -- able to live outside the womb.
3. Human life begins when a baby is actually born.
4. Human life begins when the body receives the soul, which is God's creation. One Southern Baptist who believes this probably represents the beliefs of many when he says, "When God forms the soul of a man is a mystery."

I suppose we can find those who would try to make cases for each of the above based on the Bible. Some who take the 4th position seem to even believe in pre-existent souls sitting on some cosmic shelf waiting for a body to be manufactured for God to install them. The person linked above who holds the 4th seems to oppose early (and other) abortions precisely because we do not know when human life begins.

We are not going to find an explicit verse (or verses) of Scripture that say(s) "human life begins at conception" any more than we will find them that state all baptisms must be by authority of a Baptist Church or performed by an ordained minister, or that fermented wine must be used for the Lord's Supper, or that church singing should be done without musical accompaniment. Yet many are quite scrupulous in these areas. Why? Well, I'm sure first of all because they think this is the intent of Scripture, and secondly, often because they prefer to err on the side of caution. If you are saying that we are unable to determine by the Bible exactly when human life begins, would it not be better to err on the side of caution?

The Bible presents children as a blessing and a gift from the God. For example, Psalm 127:3 "Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." This mindset should be the beginning point of a Biblical worldview concerning children. The Bible also prohibits the killing of innocent people. The question with some is whether the fertilized egg or fetus are "people", or at what point it becomes so.

To Isaiah, God says, "Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb (Isaiah 44:2)" To Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee... (Jeremiah 1:5)" And of David, "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. (Psalm 139:16)" These verses are probably more about the Sovereignty and foreknowledge of God, but they also indicate a personhood of them, as well as God having an active part in the formation of a child in the womb.

You have some more of my scattered thoughts on the matter, whether intelligible or not.

Bonnie Prince Charlie said...

I offer this quote, from here

"The risk of miscarriage decreases as pregnancy progresses. It is possible that as many as 50% of pregnancies miscarry before implantation in the womb occurs. Early after implantation, pregnancy loss rate is about 30% (i.e., this is still before a pregnancy is clinically recognised). After a pregnancy may be clinically recognized (between days 35-50), about 25% will end in miscarriage. The risk of miscarriage decreases dramatically after the 8th week as the weeks go by."

Those are astounding statistics, are they not? If this sort of thing is part of God's mechanism, as opposed to being a product only of the way the live our lives these days (impossible to tell, as in past years they couldn't have taken the data) -- well, if so, I think we should have a little more humility concerning these matters. This is a true mystery, after all. Either that, or we should be having a heck of a lot more funerals, coroners' reports, and perhaps arrests and trials than we currently have.

My point, still speaking as someone who's anti-abortion, is that we can take things too far.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bonnie Prince Charlie,

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I am at somewhat of a loss to follow the logic. Because nature or "God's mechanism" results in a certain percentage of miscarriage, therefore it is proper to also deliberately cause a miscarriage or to end a pregnancy. That's the way I take the logic. Does that fairly represent your view?

To me it seems like the statistical approach is not the best way to resolve a moral question. For example, children are more likely to die during their first year of life than at older ages. U.S. infant (one year of age or younger) mortality rate was 6.30 per 1,000 live births in 2008; Angola was 182.31. (According to The 2008 World Factbook). Current world infant mortality rate according to the United Nations is 49.4; and according to the World Fact Book, 42.64. The most common cause of infant mortality worldwide is pneumonia. Since "nature" results in a certain percentage of infant mortality, would an even smaller percentage of deliberate infant mortality be acceptable? And would it be more acceptable in Angola and the US since the infant mortality rate is much higher? Or would a moral approach be that regardless of what takes place "naturally", no deliberate infant mortality is acceptable?

Now I think that many, if not most, women who take birth control pills do not intend to end a pregnancy, but rather prevent it. They probably know very little beyond the fact that this pill is supposed to keep them from getting pregnant. But there is a right to know that most birth control pills have three functions, one of which acts to prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the uterine wall. Women have a right to know. Some who know will choose to discontinue the use of these birth control pills. Some will not.

Finally, you wrote, "If this sort of thing is part of God's mechanism, as opposed to being a product only of the way the live our lives these days (impossible to tell, as in past years they couldn't have taken the data)..." I agree that this can't be scientifically proven if the data is not there. But the site from which you quote does appear to take the view that it is not lifestyle. For example:

"These are the most common reasons that women miscarry. Not because of something you did or didn't do, but just because of chance. Not because you drank alcohol, ate some unpasteurised cheese, or didn't take folic acid. Certainly not because you had sex or didn't rest enough.

"Whether you lay in bed from the day of your positive pregnancy test or went hang-gliding every day wouldn't have changed things. It's nature's way of making sure that when you do have a baby, it has the best chance for all of its life."

Bonnie Prince Charlie said...


My point -- and forgive me to doing a poor job of illustrating it -- was that if the fertilized egg is sacrosanct, God possibly(?) would have made it a bit less difficult for that fertilized egg to wind up eventually being born.

I don't know if the high percentage of miscarriages is a good thing to compare with infant mortality, because the latter is a public health issue, something that can be lowered by intervention, whereas the former apparently is as it is no matter how well we take care of ourselves. Now why is that? I don't know, but perhaps it is important and not just a random fluke of our biology.

The main part of your argument -- just because something occurs naturally doesn't mean that's it's OK for us humans to encourage it to happen -- is persuasive, though, and may be changing my mind on this issue.

I do enjoy your site. I came across it as I have taken up occasional sacred harp singings.

Anonymous said...

Robert, my point was not that early abortion is acceptable, but that there does not seem to be scriptural support for any particular position with regard to when it is "okay" to manipulate pregnancy. The people who believe that communion wine must be actual wine, or who believe that singing must be unaccompanied, etc., have scripture on which they base their beliefs.
Strange then that on this issue, where the majority of believers hold unquestionably that life begins at conception, there is no actual scripture to cite? The scriptures you cite would make it seem that perhaps the pope is right on this one? No form of birth control is legitimate in God's eyes?

R. L. Vaughn said...

Bonnie Prince Charlie, I think that the high percentage of miscarriages compared with infant mortality certainly is not an exact comparison, as you note. But what you stated, better than I, was the point I was hoping to make -- just because something occurs naturally doesn't mean that's it's OK for us humans to encourage it to happen.

Best wished on your involvement in Sacred Harp singing, and thanks for visiting the blog.

Terre, I wonder if it isn't likely that if we applied the same method of interpretation that we use on some of these other issues that we might come to that conclusion? For example what Scriptures would we use and by what interpretation of them would come to the conclusion for all a cappella singing?