Christians And Contraception Christians and Contraception: Why it is Your Choice, and Why Christianity Was Wrong in the Past INTRODUCTION Contraception History Contraception is defined by Websters II New Riverside Dictionary as the prevention of conception. Its synonym is birth control; defined as the avoidance of unwanted pregnancies by preventing fertilization by the use of contraceptives or continence. It is argued that many forms of birth control are not in fact contraceptives because they do not interrupt the conceptual process, but merely inhibit the survival of the fertilized egg. While we will still frame our discussion in the general category of birth control, the distinctions are important when considering ethics. For example, since the so-called morning after pill prevents the fertilized egg from attaching itself to the wall of the uterus, and thus causing a miscarriage, it technically would be a form of birth control, not conception control .
Ancient societies understood the difference between preventing conception and killing an infant. In fact, they used a variety of techniques to try and prevent conception. Coitus interruptus, also known as withdrawal, was widely practiced. It was, however, condemned by conservative Judaism and Roman Catholicism as a vice against nature. This idea grew from the belief that semen was a seed, containing everything necessary for life, and the womb was fertile soil in which to plant the seed.
The seeds were believed to be finite, thus carelessly wasting them endangered the future health of the tribe . The ancients also used types of diaphragms to block the sperm. In Africa, women used plugs of chopped grass or cloth. Japanese women used balls of bamboo tissue paper. Greek women used wool . While birth control in one form or another has existed for as long as human culture, there have also been attempts to prevent anything that impeded pregnancy and birth.
In 1873, Anthony Comstock was successful in passing a law through Congress that defined contraceptive information as obscene. This was the outgrowth of abortion legislation that outlawed all abortions except those necessary to save the life of a woman. In 1869, Pope Pius IX had declared that all abortion is murder. This was a change from previous Roman Catholic teaching that considered 40 days after conception for a boy and 80 days for a girl as the moment of quickening, meaning the beginning of life. The moment of conception now became the beginning of life, and actually the sperm and egg were even seen to be alive .
Types of Contraceptives Contraceptive methods for women include the rhythm methodabstinence around the most likely time of ovulationand precoital insertion into the vagina of substances (creams, foams, jellies, or suppositories) containing spermatocidal chemicals. The use of a diaphragm, a rubber cup-shaped device inserted before intercourse, which prevents sperm from reaching the uterine cervix. It is usually used with spermatocidal substances, intrauterine devices, or IUDs, are variously shaped small objects inserted by a doctor into the uterus: they apparently act by creating a uterine environment hostile either to the sperm or to the fertilized egg. The birth control pill, an oral contraceptive, involves a hormonal method in which estrogen and progestins are taken cyclically for 21 days a month. These pills suppress production of the hormone that would ordinarily cause ovulation .
Other forms include sterilization of either the man or woman, and many new techniques and medications such as the previously mentioned morning-after pill, or minutes-after hormone, and also different forms of progestin injections or insertions . The Ethical Contraception Argument The morality of contraception has been argued for centuries. Traditional Christians view the use of contraceptives or contraceptive behavior as sinful and in opposition to Gods will for humanity. These fundamentalists have interpreted small pieces of Biblical scripture to reveal the word of God, which shuns birth control. There has also been brought forth a scientific argument supporting the disallowance of Christians utilizing contraception techniques. On the other hand there is abundant evidence that welcomes the intelligent use of birth control measures into the lives of Christians living in the twenty-first century. There has been counter arguments formed to the traditional views, and stunning revelations about the misinterpretation of Gods word in scripture. Also, it will not be a surprise that there is a large amount of information from the scientific side that also encourages Christians to make their own choices about their views on contraception, just as God intended.
This paper will serve to prove that although there is traditional evidence leading to many Christians agreeing with the views opposing birth control, that in fact scripture does not speak of birth control as a sin, but sex without conception as a joyous gift from God. The Views of the Past Tradition Early Christian teachings condemned birth control and saw procreation within marriage as the only acceptable goal of sex. In fact, Pope Gregory, around 600 A.D., said that all sexual desire is sinful. And the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century declared that celibacy and virginity are superior to marriage. In the 1950’s, Pope Pius XII broke with tradition and allowed the form of birth control known as the rhythm method, where the woman keeps track of her menstrual cycle and determines the days she unlikely to conceive.
In the 1960’s, Pope Paul VI tried to provide some theology for this view in the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. In this document, the pope found a unitive purpose for martial sexual intercourse beyond procreation. The sexual act was a means of strengthening the relationship between the couple. However, because procreation is still seen as the natural purpose of sex, many Catholic theologians find a contradiction in saying that knowingly using the rhythm method to thwart conception is different than using a condom or the pill. The intent of the couple was to not conceive, thus going against the natural purpose of sex. Thus, a condom is not natural because it impedes the flow of sperm to the egg.
The birth control pill is not natural because it impedes the egg from taking its normal place in the uterus. The morning after pill is not natural because it impedes the fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus and begins the process of becoming a fetus. Coitus interruptus is not even natural because the sperm is deposited outside the female reproductive organs. Sperm has one natural function in life. To swim to the egg and fertilize the egg.
Catholic theologians appeal to natural law and divine revelation when constructing their ethic of life. Natural law refers to what human reason can discover about human nature and its moral duties apart from divine revelation. However, since everything has God as the ultimate source of being, natural law actually declares the will of God. In other words, the same Spirit who gives divine revelation through scripture also reveals truth through natural law . According to the Roman Catholic view of natural law, the purpose of human sexuality is both reproductive and unitive. Thus, every sexual act should embody both aspects.
So while a couple is not expected to reject the pleasure and intimacy of a sexual act, every sexual act must be open to the possibility of procreation . The papal encyclical Humanae Vitae states, There must be a rejection of all acts that attempt to impede procreation, both those chosen as means to an end and those chosen as ends. This includes acts that precede intercourse, acts that accompany intercourse, and acts that are directed to the natural consequences of intercourse. . . The Church has taught repeatedly, direct sterilisation of the male or female, whether permanent or temporary, is equally to be condemned .
Thus, Early this century more was being understood about the female reproductive cycle and the process of ovulation. In 1952 Pope Pius XII and again in 1968 Pope Paul VI allowed the use of rhythm and other natural methods and abstinence for their followers. It was taught that artificial contraception, which separates the unitive and procreative aspects of intercourse, breaks moral law. These views still stand official today. Therefore it is obvious that much of Christian tradition was opposed to the use of birth control . Scripture There is said to be biblical text that is opposed to the use of contraception.
It is believed that in as early as the book of Genesis, contraception was addressed. The account of Onan (who practiced coitus interruptus) was interpreted as teaching that any form of contraception was wrong. As Onan is having sexual intercourse he withdraws and ejaculates on the ground. He is then struck deac by the hand of God. It is traditionally believed that he was stuck dead because he performed a form of contraception.
In Genesis 1:28 God tells his creations to be fruitful and multiply. This is interpreted in the light that God …