The Protestant Pill Predicament
Ask most Protestants when life begins and more than likely they’ll say, "at conception."
Growing up Protestant, I never knew there was anything wrong with birth control, of any kind. As long as it was used within the confines of marriage, it was ok. And not even just that, it was considered "responsible" since it allowed us to space out and control the number of children we had. (We're big fans of the WASPy 2.5 kids thing. They just fit in our sports utility vehicles better that way.)
Now, many times I remember hearing friends spout off about how "God gave us a brain, and when it comes to family planning He intends for us to use it, by golly!" While I agree with that statement, it was obviously meant more as a jab at Catholics who are known for their much larger families- something many outsiders attribute to the natural family planning methods they use...of which I was completely ignorant yet still totally opinionated. Because see, in my faith, you trusted in God... to trust you with the number of kids you thought you should have. Did I fit as many "you's" in there as humanly possible? Hope so.
Anyway, the more involved in the pro-life movement I became the more I actually started learning what these Cathies (who I spent every day but Sunday with) had against the pill. And get this, it pretty much lined up with the same stuff many Protestants claimed to believe as well. It had nothing to do with Mary, or any saints, or their rosaries. It had to do with life beginning at conception, and faithfully trusting in the Lord to provide you with (and for) the size family He intended you to have.
However, it wasn't until years later, while volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center that I truly began to educate myself on the different types of contraceptives as well as abortifacients and abortion procedures. To my dismay, I started noticing an overlap in many of these methods. Take IUD's for example. While many people believe they stop conception because some of them contain a progesterone element, many simply stop implantation of the zygote by irritating the lining of the uterus. Conception (a.k.a. "when life begins") has already taken place, and that little life is just bobbin' around in there waiting to get knocked off by your giant copper womb harpoon.
I remember sitting with a group of ladies at our weekly bible study shortly after making this discovery, when one of them mentioned how her oral contraceptive was affecting her negatively. Before I knew it I was front and center in a real life, cheese ball IUD commercial. The woman next to me starts raving about her intrauterine device and explaining all of its fabulous benefits as the group leans in and listens intently. Seriously, the only thing missing was a monotone voice in the background delivering the laundry list of possible side effects. And as I sat there debating whether or not to jump in, I remembered how another friend recently went in to have hers taken out and discovered she was actually 7 weeks pregnant at the time. No telling what that IUD could have done to her child had it not been removed immediately. Surely this story would allow me to explain exactly how an IUD works without coming off as judgmental or holier-than-thou, right?
Not so much.
As soon as I opened my mouth, I realized these women didn't want to hear it. They knew what they knew because they didn't want to know any better. I was looking at my former self and immediately felt compelled to dig deeper.
After getting all of the facts from my OB/GYN, I went to the director of the Christian crisis pregnancy center where I'd been volunteering and began asking questions about why we gave married women referrals for birth control. She explained that it was a personal choice (hmm, where have I heard that before?) and that she wasn't entirely sure there was anything wrong with chemical contraceptives. Actually, she didn't even realize there might be something wrong with them until I started explaining what my doctor had told me...
Birth control pills are supposed to work by tricking your body into thinking it's already pregnant. And 99% of the time that is effective. However, when it is not, the pill goes on to create a "hostile environment" for the "fertilized egg" (i.e. product of conception, a.k.a "when life begins," b.y.o.b., no don't 'cause you're totally preggers, dude). Not to mention, the Plan B pill, which so many Christians proudly proclaim to be against, is actually just 3 birth control pills taken in a 24 hour window. How can we simply ignore these facts?
Now believe me, I wish they weren't true. I had been on the pill for years and suddenly started wondering if my hostile womb had ever run anyone off. I mean, here I was an avid respecter of life, who was ignorantly dosing my body with an abortifacient. And that's when I got pissed. It can only be a "personal choice" when we're given all the facts, and when it comes to birth control, we certainly are not. I am sick of women being kept in the dark in regards to their bodies. Many of the same lies revolving around abortion can also be applied to contraceptives. It's as though women cannot be trusted with the facts. Because if we have all of the information, we might choose differently, and then no one would be able to control our reproduction anymore. So much for "choice." The decisions have already been made for us. The only thing we're choosing is to remain ignorant.
Here's the deal- sadly, I've come to expect such deceit from the world. But not from my church. As Protestants we must wake up and realize our own hypocrisy. We're propagating a lie by omitting the truth. Either life begins at conception or is doesn't. It’s just that simple. And if it does, than we have some major changes to make.