Jun 20, 2014

"So, What Form of Birth Control Do You Use?" (Part I of II)

By Ruth Meyer

“So, what form of birth control do you and your husband use?” Kind of an awkward way to start a conversation, isn’t it? It’s my guess that, like me, you haven’t talked about birth control with many people other than your husband. You probably don’t even know what your best friend does for birth control. And if you ever did try to find out, you’d likely be told to mind your own business. It’s a touchy topic, I know. But it needs to be discussed, because there are issues here that you may never have heard about. The type of birth control you use may not align with your pro-life stance. Most of you ladies reading this are probably staunchly pro-life, so please be informed of all the effects of birth control, because some are, in fact, abortifacient.

The LCMS does not have an official stance on birth control. The Catholic church, on the other hand, is officially against contraception of all kinds (Catholic teaching does allow natural family planning as a means of spacing or delaying children). They believe birth control goes against God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply.” We Lutherans believe that statement to be a blessing from God rather than a command. We aren’t officially for or against birth control, which can be somewhat confusing. No one really ever talks about it, leaving faithful husbands and wives to figure it out for themselves, for better or for worse. And trust me, there are many “for worse” methods of doing birth control.

Let’s start with one of the most popular methods of birth control out there- the Pill. Brace yourselves, ladies, because this one is, in fact, a “for worse” choice. I know it’s easy and convenient, but prayerfully consider the possible consequences of this one before you continue its usage. Personally, anything that messes with the hormonal balance of my own body makes me uncomfortable anyhow, but there’s more. Look at how exactly the Pill works, as described by PFLI, Pharmacists for Life International:
Q. How does the pill really work?

A. There are four ways the pill acts to stop sperm reaching an egg (ovum). First, the hormones in the pill try to stop an ovum being released from your ovary each month. This is known as the suppression of ovulation. Research has shown that neither the progesterone-only pill nor the combined progesterone-oestrogen formulations always stop ovulation. 
Second, all formulations of the pill cause changes to the cervical mucus that your body produces. The cervical mucus may become thicker and more difficult for sperm to fertilize an ovum. 
Third, all formulations of the pill cause changes to the lining of the womb (properly known as the endometrium). Under the influence of the chemicals in the pill, the lining of the womb doesn’t grow to the proper thickness. You will notice that your periods are lighter when you are on the pill. This is because the lining of the womb has not developed properly. But this change also means that the womb is not in the right stage of development to allow a fertilized egg to attach properly (this attachment process is known as implantation).

Fourth, the pill causes changes to the movement of the Fallopian tubes. This effect may reduce the possibility of the ovum being fertilised.

So the Pill tries to prevent pregnancy via four effects. The first is suppressing ovulation. Okay, fine, I can live with that. It tries to stop the ovary from releasing an ovum. Secondly, it thickens cervical mucus, making it harder for the sperm to get through. Again, it is trying to prevent conception from happening- no human life is threatened by these functions. And skipping ahead to the fourth way the Pill works, it changes the movement of the Fallopian tubes, which “may” reduce the possibility of the egg being fertilized. Again, in my own view, that’s a lot of chemicals in my body making my Fallopian tubes move for something that “may” prevent fertilization. But go back now and carefully read through the third option once again. The Pill makes the conditions of the womb hostile to a fertilized egg. It thins the lining of the womb so a fertilized egg cannot attach itself. Lutherans may not have an official stance on birth control, but we are very clear on our belief that life begins at conception. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, life has begun. To deny a fertilized egg the chance to implant itself in the uterine wall is to end that life. That’s abortion. Look with me again at how PFLI discusses that angle of the Pill:

Q. So how do you prove that the pill acts as an abortifacient? 
A. The answer to this question can be found by comparing the rate of break-through ovulation and the detected pregnancy rate. The ovulation rate has been reported to be about 27 ovulations in 100 women using the pill for one year. But the detected pregnancy rate is much lower at around 4 pregnancies per 100 women using the pill for one year.
As you can see, there is a big difference between the number of women who [ovulate] (27) and the number of detected pregnancies (4). What has happened within the woman’s body to reduce the high ovulation rate to such a low number of detected pregnancies? I suggest that one answer to this important question is that pregnancies have begun, because ovulation and fertilization have occurred, but some of these pregnancies are terminated because implantation cannot take place. The pill has damaged the lining of the womb, stopping implantation.

If those statistics are true, that means that 23% of the time, the Pill acts as an abortifacient, preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. It is important to note as well, ladies, that this process applies to all types of hormonal birth control, not just the Pill. The NuvaRing (a vaginal ring), Ortho Evra (a birth control patch), Depo-Provera (a birth control shot), and all other options like this, work in the same way to prevent pregnancy. Preventing an egg from being fertilized is one thing, but preventing a fertilized egg from implanting is quite another. But maybe you want to know exactly how these methods work to prevent implantation. Again, turn with me to PFLI for an answer:

Q. You talk about the pill causing damage to the lining of the womb, but what does this really mean? 
A. The process of implantation of the human embryo into the lining of the womb is a very complex and delicate process. Proper attachment and successful implantation is under the guidance and control of a vast array of ‘implantation factors’. These chemical factors, with names such as interleukins, PAF and LIF, actually cause what is referred to in medical journals as "cross-talk" between the embryo and the cells which line the womb. That is, the cells of the new human embryo and the cells of the lining of the womb chemically speak to each other. The purpose of this chemical communication is so the womb will be fully prepared and ready to bind with the human embryo when it attempts to implant. 
The pill’s role in all of this is that it alters the levels of these implantation factors. Too much estrogen and progesterone, via the pill, causes harmful changes to the levels of these implantation factors. Recent research has shown that implantation fails if the levels of estrogen and progesterone are too high.

It is because the levels of these two hormones are wrong that the week-old embryo cannot attach to the womb. Cell talk fails, the proper development of the womb doesn’t occur, and the embryo dies from a lack of nutrition normally supplied to it from the lining of the womb. In fact, wrong levels of artificial progesterone have been shown to cause a very thin lining of the womb, making implantation impossible.

As well, there are a special group of molecules found both on the lining of the womb and on the 7-8 day old human embryo known as integrins. Integrins are referred to as ‘adhesion molecules’. Researchers have shown that these adhesion molecules greatly assist the process of implantation...Integrins could be thought of as grappling hooks that ‘hold’ the human embryo onto the womb whilst the process of implantation is completed. The artificial hormones in the pill have been shown to damage the ability of integrins – the implantation ‘hooks’— to function properly. Because of this damage to the proper functioning of integrins, the limited amount of time the human embryonic person has for attaching, known as the ‘window of implantation’, is closed. As a result, the human embryonic person dies.

Ladies, it is not worth the risk. Please don’t do it. Those of us who believe life begins at conception cannot in good conscience use something that may be abortive. If you have been using hormonal birth control, please stop. If you’ve been using it without realizing the full effects of it, don’t beat yourself up over it. Remember, Jesus offers forgiveness and healing no matter what. Even if you’ve gone to an abortion clinic to “take care of” an unwanted pregnancy, Jesus’ love and forgiveness are there for you. Abortion is not the unforgivable sin, and if you feel guilty over your birth control choices thus far, don’t despair. Pour out your heart to Jesus and trust Him when He promises complete forgiveness. If you’ve been using the Pill without realizing that it has abortifacient properties, don’t get caught up in the “what ifs.” You simply don’t know if you fall in that 23% or not. Don’t put yourself through the mental anguish of wondering whether or not the Pill could have prevented a fertilized egg from implanting in your womb. Now that you know, however, make some changes in your birth control routine. And be sure to tune in for the second part of our discussion on birth control, coming soon to a Lutheran blog near you (check back on Tuesday).


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Ruth Meyer is living out her vocation as a Lutheran woman in the roles of sister, daughter, mother, and wife.  Her greatest joy in life is living as a redeemed child of God, who has blessed her in her many vocations.  Besides her human relationships, Ruth's other interests include music and writing.  She is a church musician and has a special love for Lutheran hymnody.  She also loves to write, and has a children's book set to be published through CPH this fall.  Ruth keeps her own blog at truthnotes.net.  Her hope is that through her writing you are encouraged and perhaps even challenged in your God-given vocations.

Title Image: "The Arnolfini Wedding" by Jan van Eyck

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