Emergency Contraception and the IUD
This is an overview of the information in The Christian and Birth Control book, published by Christian Life Resources. To purchase the book click on the link at the bottom of this page.
This chapter brings us to the halfway point in our discussion about a Christian’s approach to the issue of birth control. It is good to begin this discussion with a reminder of the spiritual framework which distinguishes the Christian’s approach of this topic from that of the world. You will notice that of the eight chapters in this book, seven deal with methods. This is unfortunate because the topic of methods pales in comparison with that of the topic of motive. Motive changes everything.
The Apostle Paul writes about motive in the great “love” chapter of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13), “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Doing right is more than just actions. It begins with a conviction of the heart. Until now we have looked at a number of birth control methods and have labeled their acceptability for Christians by examining how they work. We concluded that if a method is designed to kill an unborn child, Christians should avoid it.
But even when we know the “right” things to do, they are only “right” when our motive is correct. That is why Isaiah reminds us, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6). This passage reminds us that it is possible to do “right” things, but they are still useless.
The writer to the Hebrews put it a little differently when he said, “And without faith it is impossible to please him [God]” (Hebrews 11:6). The heart has to be “right” with God in order to do “right” things. This is difficult for us to understand. We have difficulty accepting the reality that “good” people doing “good” things are not eternally saved if they do not believe in Christ as their Savior from sin. We very naturally place considerable emphasis on doing good things. Our culture generally rewards the good and punishes the evil. Yet, true goodness begins with a right relationship with God through faith in Christ as the Savior.
When we examine these issues of birth control the methods are all important. But if we fail to make decisions in this arena from hearts of faith that desire to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31) then even the use of the “right” methods will be wrong.
So, what are you to do about this? With every chapter you read in this book remember to ask yourself about your own motives. Why do you wish to use or not use birth control? Is your decision based on a desire to glorify God or to serve yourself? These are hard questions to ask, but they are necessary. There is no greater good we can do than to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the Lord (Romans 12:1).
For that reason I will continue to let the facts concerning the methods speak for themselves. I will offer some personal thoughts, but in the end only you know where your heart lies. Only you know the answer to the question, “Why?” I encourage you to continue asking that question as we now look at the topics of emergency contraception and the IUD.
To properly understand “emergency contraception” you must realize there have been different definitions of when a pregnancy occurs. Psalm 51:5 reminds us that life begins at conception. Conception is when the sperm fertilizes the egg somewhere along the fallopian tube. From the point of conception there are still a few days that pass before that growing fertilized egg settles into the uterine lining where it continues to grow.
There are some who teach that though an egg is fertilized and growing, it is not a pregnancy until it implants in the uterine lining. We would differ with this explanation for two reasons: (1) at conception, that youngest of human life already has the biological blueprint that makes it unique from all other human life, including that of the host mother; and (2) once fertilized, an egg begins a continuum of growth marked by various transitional stages – none of which work a change in the person, but rather a change in the growth process.
The first stage of life, of course, is that point of fertilization which we refer to as conception. During that first stage the fertilized egg goes through a continued process of cell division and growth.
The fertilized egg enters the next stage when, as it grows, it implants itself in the uterine lining. Once implanted in the uterine lining the very, very young growing child draws its continued ability to grow from the mother.
In the womb various stages of the child’s growth take place. They are marked not by when a child supposedly becomes a child but when the child develops additional features or skills. For example, the ability of a child to move is called the stage of viability. Movement does not suddenly make the child alive. Rather, in the process of life, the child develops the ability to move.
Upon delivery a child enters a new stage which is quite visible to all of us. He or she is still very dependent on his mother for the continued ability to thrive and grow, but it is done differently. And the rest of life is marked by changes in living – not changes to life.
The term “emergency contraception” is quite deceiving. It is not a contraceptive at all. Rather, advocates of this type of birth control contend life before implantation in the womb can be terminated by simply ignoring it as life and defining a pregnancy as beginning at implantation and not at conception. “Emergency contraception” is designed to be used with the specific intent of preventing implantation of the baby in the uterine wall. “Emergency contraception” is not a prevention of life starting, but an interruption of the life process.
One form of “emergency contraception” is perhaps better known as the “morning after pill.” It is often used for victims of rape, on those who had unplanned sexual intercourse or on those who had intercourse but their method of birth control appears to have failed (i.e. torn condom, a loose-fitting diaphragm, etc).
This pill is supposed to be administered within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. It most often takes the form of high doses of certain combination birth control pills. In fact, advocates of this procedure have publicized using high dosages of the common birth control pill to accomplish the same goal.
Statistics indicate that 25% of those who use this process still become pregnant. Its use is often associated with severe cramping and nausea. Most importantly, it is clearly targeted to kill a developing child, and Christians would not consider using it.
A second form of “emergency contraception” is the insertion of an intrauterine device (IUD) within five days of unprotected sex. It is designed to disrupt the lining of the uterus to prevent implantation of the fertilized egg. Again, for the same reasons, a Christian would not pursue this method of birth control.
The topic of IUDs, however, is worthy of a few more comments. For many years IUDs had been marketed to work as described above to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Over the past years, the IUD became less used (currently about 1% of women use the device) because of concerns about infections and a rise in ectopic pregnancies. One report suggests the rate of infection for IUD users to be 1.5 to 4 times higher than non-IUD users. The all-plastic IUD called “Dalkon Shield” was taken off the market in 1974 because of its high incidence of infection and septic abortions.
However, the IUD was marketed aggressively as a safe birth control method. In December 2000, the FDA approved the use of Mirena, the first new intra-uterine device on the United States contraceptive market since 1988. FDA statistics as of 2013 indicate Mirena’s effective rate at 99.8% for both perfect and typical use. The brand name for the copper IUD is Paragard. FDA statistics as of 2013 indicate Paragard’s effective rate at 99.4% for perfect use; 99.2% for typical use.
In the International Journal of Fertility (1997; pages 120-127), Dr. Andrew M. Kaunitz observed that “copper IUDs prevent fertilization primarily by creating an intrauterine environment that is spermicidal.” He further observed that while ovulation is not affected by the copper IUD (specifically Copper T 380A), studies indicate “fertilization to occur in less than 1% of menstrual cycles.” This led the author to conclude the copper IUD is not an abortifacient. In contrast he does indicate that progesterone-releasing IUDs do have an abortifacient quality to them.
So, does this mean a Christian might be able to use the copper IUD? I am not ready to give such an endorsement. I am troubled by the fact that for years the IUD manufacturers themselves readily indicated the abortifacient nature of their product. The fact that an IUD is an instrument for “emergency contraception” further suggests that it is abortifacient in nature. I have trouble believing that now everyone was wrong.
I share this information with you so that when you hear it from your doctor it does not come as a surprise. The staff of Christian Life Resources will continue to follow up on these latest reports to see whether the copper IUD is spermicidal or abortifacient. For now, however, I counsel that you do not use any IUD because of its long-standing designation as an abortifacient and because of its history of problems.
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