Contraception and the “Culture of Death”

Is there a connection between birth control and abortion? My wife and I would like to have a family someday, but for a number of reasons we don't feel ready yet. During our two years of marriage we've sought the Lord's guidance and have never questioned our decision to postpone childbearing through the responsible use of birth control during this early season of our marriage. But the other day we read an article on a pro-life website that made a very convincing case for the idea that contraception and abortion are just two different aspects of a single phenomenon. The writer said that both express an "anti-life mindset." He also seemed to be arguing that the one leads to the other, and that if you practice birth control, you're promoting a "culture of death." This really threw us into a tailspin. Now we don't know what to think.

Let’s begin by summarizing our perspective on the subject of birth control. Generally speaking, we see no biblical reason to suppose that it’s wrong to prevent fertilization of the ovum. We do oppose any method of so-called “birth control” that actually functions as an abortifacient. In other words, we object to any “contraceptive” measures that do their work after the fact of fertilization. Most such methods end a newly conceived human life by keeping the embryo from implanting in the womb. Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) are a good example, but there are others.

Given that qualification, it would be fair to say that Focus on the Family as a Protestant evangelical ministry takes a “neutral” stance on birth control in the generic sense. On the whole, we tell those who contact us for advice in this area that contraception is a deeply personal issue. We further suggest that it should be handled with generous amounts of prayer and plenty of wise counsel from friends, parents, older adults, pastors, and trusted medical professionals. In other words, we encourage couples to make up their own minds. That’s because, as an interdenominational ministry, we’re sensitive to the fact that different groups of Christians have drawn very different conclusions in this area.

That said, it’s worth adding that there is a certain compelling logic to the idea that contraception and abortion are culturally linked. Even the justices of the Supreme Court seem to have thought so. In the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the judges said that “in some critical respects abortion is of the same character as the decision to use contraception.” Why? Because, to a significant degree, easy contraception has played a huge role in shifting cultural perspectives on childbearing. It has caused many people to forget that “sons are a heritage from the Lord, children are a reward from Him” (Psalm 127:3). It has even helped to create an attitude of ambivalence towards children or an outright dismissal of parenthood. We believe that this trend should be countered in every way possible.

At the same time, we can’t agree that there is a necessary link between abortion and the appropriate use of birth control. As we see it, everything depends upon the context in which it’s used. To put it another way, the real problem isn’t with contraception at all. It’s with contemporary attitudes towards sex and marriage.

By way of illustration, consider the argument (advanced by some anti-birth control writers) that “contraception results in greater sexual activity and, because contraception fails so consistently, in more ‘unwanted’ pregnancies.” Our reaction to this statement is simple. We think that pregnancies are far less likely to be “unwanted” when they occur within the bonds of marriage. Married couples may have good reasons for wishing to postpone childbearing and parenthood. They may be finishing their education. They may be dealing with financial difficulties. But they are also in a much stronger position than their unmarried counterparts to accept the “surprise” of an unplanned child when contraceptive methods fail. Their relationship is built upon a foundation of commitment and permanence. This permanence functions as a kind of “safety net” that enables them to face unforeseen challenges with courage and peace of mind. In their case, then, the responsible use of contraception has nothing to do with an “anti-life mindset.”

If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to give our staff a call. Focus on the Family’s counselors would be happy to discuss your concerns with you over the phone. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area.


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