An argument I occasionally hear is that if Christians really wanted fewer abortions, they would adopt liberal and Democratic policies over conservative and Republican ones. The logic being that there are statistically fewer abortions with the former than the latter. While we may have seen the lowest number of abortions ever under the Trump administration, this is due to legislation put in place under President Obama–specifically, the Affordable Care Act (2010). So, I suppose the pattern fits. As more women have access to birth control, there are fewer unwanted pregnancies–thus fewer abortions. The problem with this position is that it is shortsighted logic and measures the wrong statistic. We should not be looking at abortion rates alone, but rather, terminated pregnancies.
You might have read that last sentence and thought to yourself that they are the same thing. If so, then please keep reading because that is the exact thing I want to address in this article. Abortions are terminated pregnancies; however, abortions are not the only means by which pregnancies can be terminated. Some forms of popular abortifacient contraceptives are quietly become the go-to method to not only prevent pregnancies, but also end them. While extremely concerning taken by itself among non-Christians, the use of such aids is steadily growing among professing Christians as well.
The use of contraceptives among Christians remains a relatively new thing. Not until the mid-1900s did we see any widespread doctrinal allowance of birth control. This is largely due to the influence of the sexual liberation movement bleeding over into Christian ideals. Historically, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and even the Protestant Reformers have been very critical of any use of contraceptives. John Calvin wrote in his commentary on Genesis that “…when a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime” (vol. 2, part 16). As harsh Calvin’s words may read to some, my aim here is not convict or condemn. I bring this up to draw attention to the drastic change of heart within Christendom over the past 100 years. Somehow, we have gone from “unforgivable crime,” to a widely accepted practice among Bible-believing Christians.
In 2016, The Pew Research Center found that only 4% of polled Protestants believe contraception to be morally wrong, and 57% stating it wasn’t even a moral issue. This paradigm shift is equally doleful and startling. We have gradually, and unknowingly, adopted secular practices and logic into our worldviews. Furthermore, it is an indicator that most Protestants have no idea how many methods of birth control work–specifically, hormonal birth control methods like the pill, IUDs, implants, and so on. Listen to me when I say: there are very moral things happening as we make these decisions. It is the moral responsibility of all Christians to research and understand how contraceptives work. It is quite literally a matter of life and death.
One of the most popular and growing methods of birth control is the IUD (intrauterine device). In 2019 alone, due to the widespread access from the Affordable Care Act, an estimated 4.4 million women used IUDs. Growth projections in the market estimate that by 2024 those numbers will double. Lasting up to 10 years, the IUD is quickly becoming the most desirable birth control method in the United States. What many people don’t realize is that several types of IUDs work similarly to how the pill works. They have an active hormonal component that, among other things, results in a thinning of the endometrial lining of the uterus–thus preventing the fertilized egg from implanting.
After conception, the newly-formed baby will travel for a few days into the uterus, where it will work to dig in and implant themselves into the wall. If one takes measures to prevent the baby from implanting, then a viable and healthy pregnancy is doomed; the baby is deprived of the nutrients it needs to survive. If we are intellectually and morally honest with ourselves, then we must acknowledge moral likeness between this and abortion. Though the methods and participant’s intentions may differ, the net result is a terminated pregnancy. All Christians are aware of the horrors of abortion, but I fear too few are aware of how these popular birth control measures truly work. We are passively killing children and are not even aware of it.
To help put the scale of this problem into perspective, one 2018 study found that over 60% of women in the U.S use some form of birth control. The same study cited that 18.6% of women use the “The Pill” and 12.6% of women use long-acting reversible contraceptives (like IUDs). That means that over 30% of the women in the United States are currently using methods of birth control that have the ability to terminate pregnancies. That’s somewhere around 50 million women. That is more people than in the entire state of California (39 million). Even by conservatives estimates (3%), that is somewhere around 1,500,000 women who are terminating pregnancies with contraceptives. For comparison, the number of abortions reported to the CDC in 2016 was around 623,471. This is a tragedy of cosmic proportions.
Anticipating a common objection, let me speak to the fact that some research says that the probability of hormonal birth methods stopping pregnancies as an abortifacient is very low. One doctor suggested that this will only impact 3 in 100 women. If this is your justification for continued use of the IUD, then you are championing secular pragmatism over the sanctity of human life. It is like being willing to take narcotic drugs because overdoses only occasionally happen. The truth is you will never know by what means your contraceptive is preventing pregnancy. Why even risk it? When morality is forsaken for pragmatism, a culture is doomed.
If you have used hormonal contraceptives, reading some of this may be challenging. However, please know it is better to have the truth and rest within the never-ending grace of God than continue on in full knowledge of this. I would encourage you to pray for wisdom and to speak to your pastor and/or elders for guidance. In Christ, there is forgiveness and hope. Seek Him, and He will not turn you away. Birth control is a complex issue in our modern world, and it should be handled very carefully.
As Christians, we must stop focusing the success of the pro-life movement strictly on the issue of abortion. Yes, it is a large, horrific factor, but it’s only one component of what it means to be pro-life. Pro-lifers should seek to uphold the dignity and sanctity of life for all humans, everywhere–born and unborn. This includes the mothers who face the lonely decision of having an abortion, the fathers who helped get them there, the homeless, the minorities, and every human around the world regardless of nationality, race, and gender. Wherever there is human life, there is an individual wonderfully crafted in the image of God. From the moment of conception on, that life should be honored, defended, and upheld. This is job of the church–to love and care for the broken. We are never without hope. Let us cling to hope in 1 John 1:9. It reads, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (ESV).
Lastly, I will return to where I started this article. I have, in a very long-winded fashion, shown that while liberal policies may result in fewer abortions, they are resulting is vastly more terminated babies. This argument has no place in a Christian’s worldview. I encourage you to research the issue on your own time, speak to your elders, and discuss things with your doctor. If we rally against abortion, but support the use abortifacients, we are hypocrites.
With the recent passing of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the debate on abortion is sure to reach fever-pitch highs. The topic will be front and center of the headlines for weeks and months to come. Statistics show that you know someone who uses hormonal birth control. Christians, in grace and hope, let us lovingly engage our friends and family over the issue of abortion and birth control. We must all regularly make efforts to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).