I ask that you read the entirety of this essay before passing judgement.
I have been closely following the Hobby Lobby debate regarding the demands of Obamacare and the idea that Hobby Lobby does not want to be forced to pay for abortions under the Obamacare mandate. I agree with Hobby Lobby's stance on religious freedom. Losing liberties is a slippery slope, and history tells us that most people don't realize what has been taken until the freedoms are long gone.
Before I continue, I need to state a few things. I am pro-life. I believe that life starts at conception and abortion is the murder of a life that if allowed to grow, would be a fully real human being. This does not mean I don't support women. I have never understood why this argument seems to have these two sides - you are either pro life and anti-women or pro-choice and pro-women. I know not everyone is so narrow minded on the two sides of this issue, but far too many people are. I realize that abortion is a tough decision, and I realize there are going to be exceptions to the rules, so to speak. But in general in this country, abortion is used as a convenience, and as a form of birth control, and that is what deeply saddens me. For the instances of rape or incest, I can hold a much better understanding to the reasoning of going through with an abortion, but I must also point out that I have heard several stories of people who decided to keep the baby in these types of situations (even if it was to give up the child for adoption after birth) and feel that they made the only right decision, because in the end, they did not kill an innocent life because of circumstances that were beyond the baby's doing or control. But I'm not here to pass judgement on those who make the opposite decision in such cases, either. I can't imagine being in similar circumstances, and I have no stones to throw. I will further say that if it were a choice between my wife or my child, I can only imagine that I would release my unborn child into God's hands in order to save my wife.
Having said that, I need to point out a few things that I feel many in the Christian community think. It's not that everyone thinks these things, but many do, and I believe false information may be the reason for these beliefs.
First: Many people see the "morning after pill" as nothing less than an abortion causing pill. This is a big part of the Hobby Lobby debate.
Second: When does conception occur? I have always held to the belief that conception occurs when the sperm fertilizes the egg. It was surprised to find out recently that this is not when textbooks, medical societies (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians), the National Institutes of Health and the federal government (FDA) see pregnancy as occurring. Pregnancy is defined as the successful implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine wall. As I continue to write out my thoughts, this difference in definition becomes important.
In regards to the first, I recently discovered the following video via some related links on YouTube:
I was surprised by the video's statement that the morning after pill does not cause abortion, but instead prevents a pregnancy from occurring in the first place. I asked a trusted friend and medical doctor about the accuracy of the video and was told that the video is accurate and given some sources of research that backed up the claim. The truth of the matter is, that in most cases, the "morning after pill" in America (note there are true first trimester abortion pills used in a small number of other countries) works first to prevent an egg from being released, as well as to prevent sperm from reaching an egg that has previously been released. In rarer cases, some research states that these pills can also prevent a fertilized egg from successfully implanting, but this is the minority of cases. I was further told that in addition to the pills the video refers to, the Paraguard IUD form of after-sex birth control may stop a pregnancy by preventing a fertilized egg from being successfully implanted. However, in no cases are these forms of birth control used to interfere with an egg that has already been successfully implanted in the uterine wall.
As to the rare cases regarding preventing implantation, I would have said, "Ah-Ha, while the pill doesn't generally cause an abortion, it can in rare cases, because it prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg in the endometrium!"
And this is where it begins to get interesting. My "Ah-Ha!" statement is based on the assumption that pregnancy is defined as the successful fertilization of an egg, and no medical or government body accepts this definition. Pregnancy is defined as the successful implantation of the fertilized egg. But, I thought to myself, "what if everyone is wrong? What if God would say that life starts at fertilization, and in rare cases, by preventing that egg from implanting, we are causing abortions?"
Well, the truth is, the Bible does not specify the biological moment that would constitute a pregnancy. We only know that we were formed in the mother's womb (see Psalm 139:13Psalm 139:13 (NKJV)
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. ).
And now the truly interesting part. Breastfeeding. Many people know that breastfeeding, done on a regular day and night schedule, is a great form of birth control. But does everyone know why? Typically, breastfeeding prevents ovulation, so there is no egg present to fertilize. This is also the first method of prevention with the morning after medications. But, there is a short period of time as the woman is becoming fertile again when she may release an egg, but, because of breastfeeding and the hormones created with the act, is not preparing for that egg to be accepted. In these cases, an egg which is released could be fertilized, yet not find successful implantation. This is a rare case, but certainly possible, just as it is rare that a morning after pill stops a pregnancy by preventing successful implantation. The reality that hit me was this: If the morning after pill causes abortions, it does so rarely, because I believe in a non-medically sound definition of pregnancy - and, breastfeeding can also cause abortions in the exact same way.
This made me think. Did God design us to accidentally cause abortions simply because we breastfeed our children (which He also designed for us to do)? Or is our concept of what constitutes pregnancy based on a misconceived definition and is our belief about what a morning after pill actually does faulty? I came to realize that if I believed that the morning after pill caused abortion, I had to accept that breastfeeding did the same thing, and I can't make this right in my mind because the Bible clearly never condemns breastfeeding one's child. I will leave you to decide for yourself the implications of the science on what you believe. I simply felt the facts needed to be stated, so that we can all make an informed choice based on the truth of the science and our faith, rather than on our faith and false medical assumptions. History has made it clear that combining faith and ignorance can lead to some fairly horrible situations.
One final thought. This essay is about abortion, and whether or not the morning after pill is really an abortion pill as seems so popular amongst Christians and other religious groups. This is not a commentary on medical rights, women's rights, or what is acceptable sexually. Please do not assume I am condoning having all the sex you want and then popping a pill the next morning because that is not the statement or purpose of this writing. In my ideal world, the morning after form of contraception would be only used when a married couple realized they may have made a mistake and wanted to take appropriate precautions - a rarity, and not a rule of regular use. There are also the understandable uncontrollable circumstances of rape, molestation, etc. But this essay is not about that either.
Comments left for this article, saved from an earlier version of this website:
Mary said (1/22/2013):
Thank you for your thought provoking essay. I believe you are seeking the most ethical approach to the complex issues in which new definitions may be accepted or forced concerning the idea of when does life begin. I believe that life begins at conception, whether one wants to define pregnancy as when life begins might be a choice for them. At any rate, the current law suit re Hobby Lobby goes beyond this debate, in that Hobby Lobby owners state they have religious convictions that cause them to object to being forced against their will to provide a method of destroying life. Whether they are correct about beginnings is not relevant to the issue as I see it, only that they are forced by the government to act against their conscience. It was only about 50 years ago, that pro abortionists derided that idea that life began before the 2nd trimester, a time known as "quickening" and they influenced the laws allowing abortion before that stage. They were proven wrong. The vital issue is Hobby Lobby being forced to go against the conscience, and their religious liberty is being taken away. Thanks again for posting your thoughts and allowing me to post mine.
My Response (1/22/2013):
Thank you for your comment. I agree that we need to stand up for freedom regarding our religious convictions. Losing these freedoms is a slippery slope, and we have already begun that slide in the past several years. In several countries we have seen God's hand at reversing discrimination against Christians (Just think of the fall of the Soviet Empire). The opposite seems to be the case in America. Hopefully through prayer and the support of God, this trend can be reversed.