The Holy Scriptures speak to this issue. However, some explanatory guidance is essential concerning the application of the scriptures in our modern day society.
This document does not intend to necessarily address every issue or example regarding contraception. It merely intends to set forth a spiritual framework for considering contraception issues.
Simply put, conception occurs at the point the sperm and the egg join.
Contraceptives are devices, drugs, or processes that prevent, capable of preventing, or tends to prevent conception; hence the use of the term contra which means opposition to or against or in contrast to. Therefore, the word contraception means against conception or in contrast to conception.
In other words contraception is about preventing conception from taking place. It is not about any process or action after conception takes place. Processes or mechanisms that interfere with progression of life after conception are best described as abortive processes/mechanisms.
Some processes/mechanisms are both contraceptive and abortive. For example, the scientific/medical purpose of IUDs is to prevent conception. But if the IUD fails then it prevents implantation of the fertilized egg thus causing an abortive process/act. This document assumes IUDs work to prevent conception most of the time and fails rarely thus it is more of a contraceptive device than an abortive device which means abortion risk is very low.
According to the online free dictionary, contraception is …”the intentional prevention of conception by artificial or natural means. Artificial methods in common use include preventing the sperm from reaching the ovum (using condoms, diaphragms, etc.), inhibiting ovulation (using oral contraceptive pills), preventing implantation (using intrauterine devices), killing the sperm (using spermicides), and preventing the sperm from entering the seminal fluid (by vasectomy). Natural methods include the rhythm method and coitus interruptus. “
Contraceptive mechanisms considered include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Direct Sterilization, whether permanent or temporary
- Tubal ligations, Vasectomies, and the Pill
- Hormonal Injections and Implants
- Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) and Foams
- Vaginal Rings
- Emergency Contraception (Morning After Pill)
- Diaphragms and Condoms
- Withdrawals/Pull Out/Coitus Interruptus
- Mutual or Solitary Masturbation
- Sodomistic Practices such as Anal or Oral Genital Sex
- Natural Family Planning (NFP)
God from the beginning instructed Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. This commandment was given reasonably after Eve was formed from a part of Adam; otherwise, to be fruitful and multiply would have no biological meaning to Adam. Thus, except under rare conditions we should give priority to obeying God’s commandment to be fruitful and multiply; we should look to God to sufficiently provide for the care of children according to biblical principles regardless of society’s cultural norms.
A number of scriptures inform us as to whether contraception, natural or artificial, is unrighteous and sinful. Although we are no longer under the laws of the Old Covenant, Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and Genesis 38:6-10 are instructive. In Deuteronomy 25 we find:
5 “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. 6 And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel. 7 But if the man does not want to take his brother’s wife, then let his brother’s wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband’s brother.’ 8 Then the elders of his city shall call him and speak to him.
But if he stands firm and says, ‘I do not want to take her,’ 9 then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the presence of the elders, remove his sandal from his foot, spit in his face, and answer and say, ‘So shall it be done to the man who will not build up his brother’s house.’ 10 And his name shall be called in Israel, ‘The house of him who had his sandal removed.’
And in Genesis 38 we find:
6And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, whose name was Tamar. 7And Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him. 8And Judah said unto Onan, Go in unto thy brother’s wife, and marry her, and raise up seed to thy brother. 9And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. 10And the thing which he did displeased the LORD: wherefore he slew him also.
In Genesis 38 Onan’s father instructed him to marry his dead brother’s wife in accordance with Deuteronomy 25. Onan could have openly refused per Deuteronomy 25 suffering only shame. Instead Onan chose to enjoy the pleasure of sex with his dead brother’s wife but not take on the responsibility of parenthood with her. So he had sex with her but withdrew and spilled his semen on the ground to avoid impregnating her. God was so displeased with Onan that God slew him. Note that Onan was guilty of deceit and lying as well as wasting God’s physical gift to him to bear children. The Bible does not explicitly give the reason for God’s displeasure; was it Onan’s pretense/deceit, his spilling of his semen, or both? Onan spilled his semen to avoid impregnation. He would have been guilty of sin if he had married the woman and refused to have sex with her for the sole purpose of avoiding impregnation. Note that masturbation to avoid impregnation in the absence of a qualifying medical condition is sinful; however, masturbation for medical purposes such as semen analysis is probably not sinful. Let the Holy Spirit guide the individual in determining what is a qualifying medical condition/purpose.
The principal purposes and benefits of marriage are a duality: reproduction and companionship (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18-25). Companionship is necessarily present but reproduction may be absent. It is God who told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply; therefore, he and he only should be the one who withholds reproduction from an individual except a person may voluntarily withhold reproduction and consequently marriage to give himself wholly over to the service of God. Jesus discusses this in
Matthew 19:1-12. Here Jesus teaches about the burden of remaining faithful to God’s commandment regarding sexual matters. In Matthew 19:11-12 he says:
11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
A eunuch is a person who is by definition physically incapable of having sexual intercourse or who is metaphorically a eunuch by voluntarily refraining from sexual intercourse. If a person has sexual intercourse he cannot claim to be a eunuch and therefore cannot claim to have made himself a eunuch for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.
So now the fundamental question before us is this: is it a sin to use artificial or natural medical devices or processes to intentionally prevent or intentionally interfere with the natural biological conception mechanism/process.
Some contraceptive drugs have multiple usages: contraception and treatment of certain medical conditions such as a hormonal imbalance called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), etc. Some provide treatment when the woman has medical conditions where pregnancy risks her life. Other than documented physical medical conditions such as PCOS, contraception mechanisms are in reality not used to treat a medical condition but rather a spiritual deficiency. Sexual promiscuity is a spiritual deficiency rather than a medical condition. Having sex without being willing to assume the responsibility of parenthood if impregnation occurs is a spiritual deficiency; this goes for both male and female.
It is clear that any device or process that potentially aborts a conceived child is spiritually prohibited except under extremely rare physical medical conditions since such an abortive act, whether intentional or unintentional, would amount to murder. Human medical science cannot be trusted to a sufficient degree as evidenced by the numerous recalls of drugs and devices introduced into society, whether Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved or not. Since human science cannot be trusted, this means all artificial devices, drugs, or processes introduced completely internally into the human body for contraceptive purposes are prohibited as they introduce a risk of abortive action. However, when a woman has a clear and compelling medical condition as discussed above, such contraceptive mechanisms may be employed. Note that medical condition does not include psychologically not wanting a child due to social or economic or similar issues.
Now let us address external artificial contraceptive devices and processes. This includes the use of condoms (male or female). Male condoms are completely external and pose no risk to causing abortive action. Female condoms are partially inserted into the female but not deep enough to form a risk to causing abortive action; otherwise they also would be prohibitive.
Now let us address natural or non-artificial processes; these are sometimes called Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods. NFP processes include the following but others may exist:
Ecological breastfeeding: A form of child bearing that normally results in impregnation occurring on an average of a minimum of two years apart.
Systematic NFP: A set of methods informed by naturally discernible signs of a woman’s fertility cycle.
Both external artificial contraceptive mechanisms and NFP processes have the same result as a goal: to avoid impregnation during a particular time period. Thus, they are functionally equivalent. Different means for the same end. So then one may ask does NFP justify the end but external artificial contraceptive means not justify the end? The answer to this question ought to be compellingly clear.
Either both NFP and external contraceptive mechanisms justify the end or neither justifies the end. I Corinthians 7:5 allow a spouse to intentionally withhold sex during times of fasting and prayer; this scripture provides no justification for spouses withholding sex for the purpose of avoiding impregnation.
So then both external artificial contraceptive mechanisms and NFP processes are equally spiritually prohibitive except under extremely rare physical medical conditions.
Some see withdrawal as a NFP method; others may see it as artificial. In either case it is spiritually prohibitive when done for the sole purpose of avoiding impregnation in the absence of a qualifying physical medical condition.
The problem with methods such as condoms, withdrawal, and NFP is that they are effectively the same as Onan spilling his seed on the ground. They involve spilling the seed in the condom, on the sheets/ground, or in the woman. Either way their purpose are to avoid impregnation just as Onan purpose was.
Now the use of any contraceptive mechanisms outside of the marital context is a sufficient nexus to fornication to consider their usage spiritually prohibitive except when such mechanisms are used to treat certain rare medical conditions; in this case the intent of using the contraceptive mechanism is not to prevent pregnancy but rather to treat the medical condition. If one wants to prevent pregnancy outside the marital context, abstinence from sex is the spiritual solution; contraception is not. So that leaves us to consider their usage by married couples.
God gave the commandment to be fruitful and multiply to the married couple Adam and Eve and their married descendants. So then it follows that any intentional interference with the reproductive process for the sole purpose of avoiding impregnation is at least inconsistent with and most likely a violation of this commandment. However, there are rare conditions under which such interference would not be spiritually prohibitive. Indeed, there are even exception conditions to the “Thou Shall Not Kill” commandment, for example wartime killing.
There are relatively rare physical-medical conditions under which a married couple may righteously choose to employ external contraceptive devices. For example, if one of the spouses has a sexually transmitted disease (STD), then the other spouse may reasonably take preventive measures to minimize risk of contracting the STD; this may include the use of such sufficiently external devices as condoms during sexual intercourse. Also, if the couple has a history of producing extremely physically or mentally defective offspring they may also choose to or choose not to use some contraceptive device at their option; no one outside the couple has the right to make such a decision for them except in the case of a minor. Psychological (arising from the mind or emotions) conditions of the potential parents do not qualify since a baby might just be the needed cure. Social and economic conditions do not qualify under these exception provisions. Governments should not use cost as a reason to curtail having children as a matter of policy and regulation; for then, a government may someday reason that it has the power to limit the number of children a person has as some nations such as China has reportedly done. So then, these provisions are applicable even if the result burdens society. Let the strong bear the infirmities of the weak (Romans 15:1-3). Let us be our brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9). Let the Holy Spirit through prayer guide the married couple in decision making (John 16:5-15).
Although, use of contraception devices is not necessarily sinful under certain conditions, a society has a God-given right to reasonably regulate its use through governmental and legal entities.
However, society has no right to require any person to use contraceptive mechanisms. Also, a society has no right to require any person to provide or any organization to directly or indirectly provide non- medical contraceptive mechanisms, freely or otherwise, to another person except society may require a person or organization to provide such mechanisms to all persons if it provides it to any. To require an individual or religious organization to provide such services when they object on religious grounds is inconsistent with religious liberty as prescribed in the United States Constitution.
Although not a necessary consideration, it is noteworthy that at some level, the United States considers a corporation as a person; thus, religious liberty rights extend to a religious corporation as a person. Note that the word organization here is not limited to churches or religious organizations but includes all organizations, whether for-profit or not for profit. Also, note that if a government can require a religious or other institution to provide mechanisms that prevent pregnancies, the nexus is that it might want to require such entities to provide mechanisms intended to abort children or curtail the number of children as reportedly done in China.
Furthermore, a society has no right to intentionally provide and promote the use of contraceptive mechanisms to minors at such places as schools, churches, etc. To do so is to infringe on the spiritual right of the parent to raise their children. If such mechanisms are needed by particular minors for medical purposes, leave it up to the medical system to so provide with direct parental oversight consistent with the totality of the principles set forth in this document. One should always remember that minors have no privacy rights.
God gives every individual the opportunity to sin or not sin; whether to sin or not sin is at its core a personal choice. Society may make laws to curtail an individual from sinning against another person or otherwise infringing on the rights of another person, including a pregnancy. However, only under extreme conditions, if any exist, should a society make laws to protect an individual against sinning against God when no other person is directly affected; let this be between the individual and God. Now this does not mean that a society may not make laws to protect a person against himself under extremely rare conditions.
Although society may reasonably regulate usage, it has no right to not make safe contraceptive mechanisms equally non-discriminatorily legally available to unmarried and married individuals if they desire to purchase or otherwise acquire them from sources willing to provide them; this applies to purely contraceptive devices as well as devices such as IUDs that may fail and become an abortive device since the intent of using the IUD is contraceptive not abortive.
This means if a church, religious nonprofit, non-religious nonprofit, or even a for-profit commercial business is willing to provide safe contraceptive mechanisms for any reason, society should not have laws preventing them from doing so. It also means that if a church, religious nonprofit, non-religious nonprofit, or even a for- profit commercial business is not willing to provide contraceptive mechanisms for any reason, society should not have laws intended to force them to do so. These provisions apply to all societal entities including governments at every level.
The reason for including for-profit entities in this provision is rather simple: A person’s faith and conscience is with him or her wherever he or she goes, whether owning or working for an organization with a religious focus or one with a commercial or other focus. It doesn’t matter whether the worker is management or non-management. Anti-discrimination goals are protected in this provision in that if a person/organization is willing to provide to anyone then the service/product must be provided to everyone who desires it, with minors requiring parental consent, and unless a person’s prior behavior disqualifies him or her according to other laws.
Now let’s briefly look at the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) as it relates to contraception. This Act is sometimes called ObamaCare or Affordable Care Act. Although some term the Act ObamaCare, in a seemingly derogatory manner, this document should not be viewed as voicing opposition to President Obama as President. It also should not be viewed as opposition to the overall PPACA. Indeed, it has it good parts. Some parts of it or at least implementation details are problematic and need resolution.
The PPACA defines contraceptive services as preventive care seemingly not necessarily associated with a pre-diagnosed medical condition. It calls for health care insurance plans to provide contraceptive services and to provide them free of charge to participants in the plan. It mistakenly does so using principally economic reasoning rather than spiritual reasoning. Indeed, the US Constitution, a good yet imperfect document, delayed forbidding the importation of slaves (Article I, Section 9); the reasoning was principally rooted in economic desires of people.
The debate around contraception and perhaps the PPACA tends to mistakenly make contraception a female issue. This same mistake was and still is being made about abortion. Neither contraception nor abortion is a woman issue; it is a male and female issue, adult and child. The first sin was an Adam and Eve issue and even more so, a male issue; for God said unto Adam, because you have hearkened unto the voice of your wife….
The case of the Jehovah Witness religious objection to blood transfusions is instructive with respect to religious liberty. In this case the non-minor mentally competent individual may request alternative non- blood replacement or refuse transfusion altogether even if it risks death. But this is the person making a decision for his or herself. Would it be proper for a Jehovah Witness doctor working in the emergency room of a hospital to refuse blood transfusion to a patient who stated no objection to such a blood transfusion? Surely, it would not be proper. If the doctor chose to work there then he or she would be expected to give such a blood transfusion. Now then it is clear that blood transfusion is a generally considered treatment for a physical medical condition including saving life. Thus, it is instructive in illustrating the difference between what the government should mandate regarding contraceptive mechanisms and what it should not; it should mandate providers offer contraceptive mechanism for treating documented medical condition of the specific person when such contraceptive mechanism are required for such treatment. It should not mandate anyone provide contraceptive mechanisms if the intent is solely to avoid impregnation in the absence of a documented physical medical condition.
It is instructive that not all health care plans may be required to offer the same health services, though they may be required to offer certain essential services. This is even true of preventive services; for example, preventative dental care is often an optional add on plan to health care plans. The PPACA seemingly requires employers to offer contraception services as preventive care as part of its health care plan. So then the PPACA must have concluded that contraception service is an essential service. But is it essential, except in the presence of other physical medical condition for which contraception mechanisms are required for treatment?
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) implementation of this PPACA calls for religious institutions in the sense of local churches, local mosques, and local synagogues physically housed as such to be exempt from the contraception provision. However, it initially did not extend exemption to religious nonprofits and schools/colleges and similar organizations with a religious focus but not housed in the sense of a local church, mosque, or synagogue. Some in the religious community object to being required to offer contraceptive services that violate their religious beliefs. Indeed, no government should make any law to force any person or organization to violate its religious belief. If it does, every person has a right endowed by God to disobey such government laws even to the point of suffering as Jesus and the biblical apostles did and many other Christians have done and continue to do to this day. Indeed, it was such civil disobedience that led to the Civil Rights gains for Black Americans in the form of changes in laws and attitudes in America.
The government has proposed a compromise that claim to take the requirement off the back of the religious nonprofits, etc., and put it on the back of the insurance companies or a “third party administrator”. The proposed compromise is certainly better than the initially released regulation and is more consistent with Amendment 1 of the United States Constitution regarding religious liberty. Yet, this compromise further demonstrates a lack of understanding and appreciation for the foundational disagreement with the government plan.
It is this: If I believe something to be sin, it does not matter whether I am part of an organization with a religious focus or one not having a religious focus such as IBM or Microsoft, or Wal-Mart, etc. I will still have that belief. So then the question becomes does the US Constitution, a good yet imperfect document devised by men, give the government the constitutional right to force me to do that which I believe is sin? If the government has the constitutional right, then I must then decide to obey men or obey God. If I decide to obey God, then I choose to suffer for Christ; indeed, this is my only righteous choice. Now then, it follows, that if I tell you I will not agree to a plan that intends to force me to sin, how can you expect me to agree to a plan that intends to force my brother or sister to sin? That is precisely what the proposed compromise does. It shows that the developers of the plan lack the spiritual understanding of the core basis for the religious objection. Indeed, to agree to pass the sin on to by brother or sister is to sin for I would be violating the first and greatest commandment as revealed by Jesus: love God and love my neighbor as I love myself. Indeed, if the government passes the burden of sin on to the insurance company and/or third-party administrators, the faithful would stand with those insurance companies and third party administrators who themselves have religious objections.
Now then what is a reasonable godly compromise? I have alluded to it earlier. But let me state it briefly. Let those who are willing to provide contraceptive products/services do so. Leave those alone who are not willing to provide them. Require insurance companies to provide contraceptive mechanisms required to treat known qualifying physical medical conditions but not simply to prevent impregnation when there is no medical risk due to a known qualifying physical medical condition.
Otherwise, let free enterprise with reasonable governmental oversight provide contraception products/services. For those who are willing to provide them require them to provide them at a reasonable cost. We certainly would not let the milk producer charge whatever they want for essential milk. So then if the government considers contraception services essential then reasonable price control would be warranted. This should be the first option for implementing contraception provisions in the PPACA. Alternatives would be establishing organizations that provide such services free of charge based on donations from those willing to participate; such organization could be governmental or non- governmental. Such organizations should not be required to be in any way contracted by, connected to, recommended by, or otherwise associated with those not willing to provide contraceptive services not associated with a physical medical condition.
Below are some references that you may use as information sources. My use of them is not in any way intended to convey neither agreement with everything contained therein nor their authors’ agreement with me.
Faith, Government, Legal, and Other References:
A statement by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, regarding contraception regulations, January 20, 2012
U.S. Bishops Vow to Fight HHS Edict, January 20, 2012, United States Conference on Catholic Bishops
FACT SHEET: Women’s Preventive Services and Religious Institutions, Whitehouse.Gov, February 10, 2012. (Outlines President Obama Administration’s compromise with religious institutions. There is a very simple alternative compromise: Let those who want to provide contraceptive mechanisms provide them and let those who do not want to participate in providing them not do so. Let people who want them go to those who want to provide them. If the government wants to use its power to usurp religious liberty citing economic reasons to do so then let it instead use its power to require those who provide contraceptive mechanism to do so at an affordable cost; indeed no cow ever raised its price and no drug ingredient ever raised its price, it is humans who do so.)
HHS Regulation: Group Health Plans and Health Insurance Issuers Relating to Coverage of Preventive Services under Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, February 15, 2012 (Potentially problematic is the provision that religious based organization who do not primarily serve people who share its religious tenets are not exempt from the regulation conception requirements. The regulation promises to implement the compromise announce by President Obama on February 10th but the regulation issued on February 15 does not implement that compromise but rather for now retains the one year safe harbor from enforcement for those with religious objections.)
The HHS Regulations on Contraceptives and Abortifacients: We’ve Been Here Before!, February 21, 2012, by Lutheran Pastor Martin Nolan, steadfastlutherans.org
Baptist college files suit against contraceptive/abortion mandate, Baptist Press, February 22, 2012
Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act, March 21, 2012. (Further outlines handling of religious objection to contraception requirements. Essentially deficiently passes the burden of religious objection onto insurance companies and third party administrators. )
Senator Blunt’s Respect for Right of Conscience Amendment (Provisions are too broad. Amendment does not mention contraception which is an item of interest to religious authorities. Senator Blunt quotes Thomas Jefferson statement about right of conscience in a letter Mr. Jefferson wrote to a Methodist religious group in response to their letter. Clearly, the context of the exchange between President Jefferson and the Methodist was a religious context so President Jefferson was most likely not talking about every conscience but rather a religious conscience. The Methodist letter to him was a tribute letter to his service; they did not ask him to address right of conscience but he voluntarily did so declaring his respect for both religion and civil liberty. Indeed, people can have honorable as well as dishonorable consciences. Therefore, laws should not be so generic as to cover all consciences not even religious consciences but should be specific to the item of concern.)
Clinical Preventive Services for Women: Closing the Gaps, by Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Science (The seemingly numerical gender makeup of the committee and study groups is instructive as is the absence of religious authorities or consideration. This represents a non-consideration of religious contribution to what is clearly an issue with a strong religious affinity. This also represents over- correcting abuse of women participation in the sense of over-correcting a skidding automobile.)
…Business leaders decry HHS contraception mandate, Catholic News Herald
Plan B (Emergency Contraception) (Inhibits Ovulation but also may inhibit implantation of fertilized egg), planbonestep.com
To God Be the Glory!