As a pastor I get lots of questions, here is one of the more interesting ones I have received lately:
Hi Pastor Steve, I have a question I’m hoping you can help me with. What, if any, is your church’s opinion on birth control pills? I’ve been on the pill since we got married and neither of us had any convictions against it, but Sunday we were listening to Mark Driscoll’s Religion Saves and there is a part where he talks about all the different birth control methods and what is ok for Christians. When he came to the pill he said that Mars Hill hired doctors (I think 5) to do a study and that they concluded that they cannot confidently say that the pill doesn’t cause abortions, nor can they say that it does. Because of this his family decided to be cautious and not use it, they also don’t recommend anyone in their church use it. He said they certainly don’t consider it a sin or something that would involve church discipline but they do strongly caution against it. This was all news to us, we certainly don’t want to be taking any chances if the pill does cause abortion so we are praying about it and seeking counsel. So that is why I wanted to ask you if NCC or yourself had a stance.
Here is my response:
NCC does not have a policy regarding birth control pills.
My understanding is that the primary way birth control pills work is that they prevent pregnancy mainly by stopping ovulation. That would mean that no eggs are being fertilized hence no abortion. There are other corollary effects of birth control pills that in cases where an egg is produced and fertilized these corollary effects make it difficult for the egg to implant in the wall of the uterus and as a result of that is “aborted”, or miscarried.
This is not a new discussion, it is odd to me that Mars Hill “hired’ doctors to do this study. Randy Alcorn wrote a book on this in 1997 called Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions? The “issue” really has to do with the ability of the fertilized egg to implant with the existing conditions caused by the added hormones. You can find that information through a simple Google search, or looking in the Physicians Desk Reference.
If I were to write Randy Alcorn’s book I would title it: Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Miscarriages? (it wouldn’t sell as many books though) That seems to be the essence of the moral argument: what is the true nature of the effect that is described as “abortion” in this instance. Abortion seems to me to be a deliberate action after the fact, “I find that I am pregnant, I don’t want a child, I take steps to end the pregnancy” or a specific decision to use a device that has as its main function to work after fertilization (like the IUD or RU486).
But the main purpose and function of the pill is to prevent fertilization from occurring and as a side effect it makes it more difficult in the rare instance of breakthrough ovulation for the egg to implant – not impossible just more difficult. I would call this miscarriage not abortion. You are not doing anything in a moral sense to “abort” you simply are taking the risk in good faith that feritilization will not occur. So your decision it seems to me is are you willing to take a risk that a breakthrough ovulation might lead to miscarriage. I still think that is a decision to pray over, I just think it is inflammatory to speak of that as “abortion” as it doesn’t have the same moral qualities.
for what its worth…
For a much different perspective, here is a PDF link to Randy Alcorn’s book: Does the Birth Control Pill Cause Abortions?