What the Birth Control Debate is really about

The other day I received a letter from the benefit plans office that handles my health care. They wanted me to be informed about how the Affordable Care Act would and would not impact my health care plan, especially in regards to the issues surrounding mandatory birth control coverage and so on. My reaction as I read through the letter went from bland curiosity to mild concern to outright frustration.

The letter explained that while the ACA requires that all employers make birth control – including abortion-causing methods such as IUDs, the “morning after pill” and so on – available to all female employees, because we are a religious organization we are exempt from that “mandate.” (For clarification, my health care is handled through my church, which participates in a group health care plan for church workers). However, it went on to explain that because the ACA still requires these options to be available, our health care plan does include those options, but that portion is subsidized by the federal government.

So, we object to these abortion-causing birth control methods and neither want them available nor want our money to go to them, and the federal government responds by saying, “We will make them available, and you will just pay for them out of your taxes instead.”

In other words, they don’t get it. The problem isn’t whether or not the money comes directly out of our pockets. The problem is that they exist at all, compounded by the fact that we are asked to pay for it one way or another.

At the heart of this issue are three lies: 1) that abortive birth control methods are not the same as abortion; 2) that sex is ultimately about fulfilling my urges for physical pleasure, and 3) that it is in the best interests of women. These lies, like all lies, need to be exposed to the light of Truth. So, in a post that will probably be way too long, I’m going to try and shed some Truth-light on these things. I apologize in advance for my loquaciousness. (J/K, I’m never really sorry for talking too much).

1. Abortive birth control methods are abortion, which is killing a living human baby

Depending on what you have been told, this one may be the easiest one or the hardest one to accept, so in the interest of clarity I’m not going to mince words. I really hope that if, for one reason or another, that becomes very hard for you that you will find a good friend who will point you to the Cross of Christ.

When we talk about abortive birth control methods, we are not talking about barrier methods like condoms, diaphragms, cervical caps, etc., nor are we talking about spermicides or sterilization or anything else that prevents conception. Those things are not abortive. We are talking about things like the “morning after” pill, intra-uterine devices (IUDs), and other similar products that create a hostile environment in the womb and prevent a fertilized egg from implanting. (I am tempted to throw orthotricyclene, known simple as “the pill,” in here, because some suspect that it thins the uterine lining and thus has the chance of being abortive. There isn’t enough medical information to say for absolutely certain.)

When an egg is fertilized, its cells begin to multiply immediately. The sex has already been determined. It has a unique DNA code formed by the interaction of two separate DNA structures. By the time it implants, around 8-9 days after fertilization, it has already formed stem cells and has begun the process of cell differentiation, where cells are starting to become the various parts of the person they will someday be (organs, bones, nervous system, etc.). It is at the cellular and genetic level a unique organism different from the mother or the father.

It is a life. A separate and unique life. A human in embryo. I mean, if they found a single-cell organism fossilized in a rock on Mars we would hear no end to the headlines “Life Found on Mars!!!”, so what do we call a unique, multi-cellular organism in the process of growing toward full maturation?

The Psalmist writes, “Your eyes saw my unformed body,” (Ps. 139:16) indicating that from God’s perspective that life does not need to look like a human being yet to be a human being. It is a human from the start.

When you introduce something into the process that creates a hostile environment for that life, forcing the body to stop its natural urge to protect and care for and grow that life, and instead force that life out to where it cannot survive, what do you call that? When life ends, what do we call it? The pro-choice crowd likes terms like “abortion” and “termination” and “prevention of implantation” because they sterilize the process.

I know a lot of Christian women have ended up using things like IUDs and so on at some point because someone – usually a doctor – told them that it “prevents pregnancy” or said that it isn’t a life until implantation. Please understand that that’s a lie that the pro-choice movement has pushed into the medical community. There was a time when it was generally understood that life begins “at the beginning.”

Dear sister, if you’re one who has been sold this lie, please understand I do not mean to shame you. God knows your heart and your intentions, and forgives you for any mistakes you have made. Walk forward in his grace, but for the sake of that grace, don’t ignore this issue. Join the fight for life.

2. Sex was created to unify a husband and wife as a selfless act by which they express love and God makes babies

I think this issue might be more pernicious than the issue of abortion in some ways, because at least that debate often boils down to the question, “What about victims of rape or incest, or when it is about the health of the mother?” That at least opens up the idea that under normal circumstances, abortion isn’t right.

When it comes to the issue of whether or not abortive birth control should be free, there is no discussion about whether or not abortive birth control methods are right or wrong. It is entirely about whether or not a woman should have the right to expect someone else to subsidize her sex life.

This is not a problem that women in loving and committed marriages deal with.

When you think of a woman who needs health care coverage that provides free access to abortive birth control methods, do you think of: a) a married woman with a stable household, b) a woman in a committed relationship living with her partner, c) a Catholic nun, or d) a young woman who might be having casual sex within the next week?

I realize those options don’t encapsulate all the possible circumstances all the many and diverse women in our culture face, but my goal is not to be insensitive. I just want to point out that women in loving and committed monogamous relationships generally are able to plan their sexual lives sufficiently so that birth control – abortive or otherwise – is not a major stress point in the budget. For less than the cost of a standard cable package a couple can invest in their sexual relationship and avoid pregnancy.

No, the people who are concerned with this are the ones who are not planning their sexuality and working it out with someone who loves and cares for them. They are the ones who want to be ready to engage in intercourse when they feel they want it without having to think about whether or not there will be ramifications, and this robs sex of all its beauty and purpose. 

“For this reason a man will leave his mother and father and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). In other words, sex is meant for two people who grow up, pursue each other in a godly way, and commit their lives to each other. As Mark Driscoll put it aptly in his book Real Marriage, “This threefold process is exactly the opposite of our culture of hook up, shack up, and break up.”

Simply put, if you’re doing sex the way God intended, you don’t need someone to pay for abortive birth control methods on your behalf. If you’re not doing sex the way God intended, you shouldn’t be doing it.

3. The concept of free birth control exploits women

“Wait,” you might say, “exploits women? How so? I thought it was about women’s health care?”

No worries! I will happily explain!

The lie we’re being sold here is that most young women are just brimming with pent up sexual urges, and that the only thing that really restrains them is the fear that they might get pregnant and be saddled with the responsibility of motherhood. We’re expected to believe that most women go through their days just really wishing they could freely engage in sexual activity at any point, but the high cost of preventing pregnancy unfairly holds them in check. We’re presented with people like Sandra Fluke, testifying before congress about how important it is to her and her friends to have the freedom of sexual expression.

The problem is that when you present this as the norm, you get two very bad results – girls who think they ought to be willing to engage in casual sex, and boys who expect to get sex from a girl in exchange for a few dates.

Do you know what you get when you have boys who expect sex? Nothing good.

Here’s another way to think about it: If we’re told that girls have a right to expect free access to consequence free sex, what do you think boys will start to believe they have a right to expect?

In the previous section I proposed four kinds of women. Which of those four kinds of women is most likely to be taken advantage of by a man? Is it really our goal to set our daughters up for being taken advantage of by boys who can shave, who haven’t grown up enough to commit themselves to a woman and treat her with love and respect? Is that the kind of society we’re aiming for?

How is this good for women?

There is an incredible amount of literature that says that the more sexual partners a woman has before marriage, the more harmful it is to her future marriage. That means more emotional upheaval in life, more anxiety and heartache, greater likelihood of being in an abusive relationship. But we’re told that providing free birth control is about women’s health?

“Love always protects,” says that famous section in 1 Corinthians 13. How can we lovingly protect the women of our society? By offering them a way to damage their sexuality? How about this alternative – treat them like the treasures God intended them to be, and encourage them to preserve their sexuality for marriage, to be given to a man grown up enough to care for it.

To sum up, the birth control debate isn’t really about “birth control”. It is about abortion, cheap sex, and exploitation, three things God hates. The opposite is life, loving sexual expression, and protection of women, three things God loves. Let’s do it God’s way.

What next?

Okay, if I haven’t convinced you by now that this is a problem, I don’t think I can. This post has massively exceeded the acceptable limit of the average blog post, so if you’re still holding out on me, the best I can do is pray for you.

But if you’re with me and just wondering what to do with all this, here are three suggestions:

1) Be informed

Learn as much as you can about the various birth control methods out there. If you’re in a position in life where you need to use them, then make godly choices. If not, be ready to help your sons or daughters or other people in your life to make good choices. Also be in the know about why saving sex until marriage is best, and encourage others.

2) Be outspoken

Did you know that when abortion issues get exposure, public opinion swings in opposition to abortion? Yeah, turns out that the more people in our society know about abortion and its related issues, the more their consciences say there’s something wrong. Which is why we have things like the Gosnell trials getting buried in newspapers instead of making front page headlines like most murder trials. So go out there and talk about it on Facebook and whatever other social networks you use.

3) Be an active voter

Women don’t really have a right to subsidized birth control, no matter what some activists might say. Neither do Representatives and Senators have a right to their elected positions – you can vote them out if they do a terrible job! So the next time you have a chance to cast a vote for one of those positions, before you do check the record. If this is a big issue to you – and I hope it is – use that vote to make a difference.

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