Moving Beyond 'The Pill'...

The inaugural post for this blog was on November 4th, and was entitled ‘Cruising for Pill info on the info Super-High-Way’. In it I recalled my disappointment over what little information one can find concerning ‘The Pill’ on the LC-MS website. The one piece of information that can be found there is a brief paper by Dr. Richard Eyer entitled BIRTH CONTROL PILLS: CONTRACEPTIVE OR ABORTIFACIENT?

In recent days I have given this paper more thought and have come to the realization that it serves as a great spring-board for our continuing conversation. At the moment (even as more people are sharing their stories of marital thought and practice concerning contraception in general and specifically ‘The Pill’) it appears that it would be advantageous for us to move beyond ‘The Pill’ toward a discussion of the more general class of contraceptives.

Dr. Eyer writes:
"The claim that hormonal contraceptives such as the birth control pill include an abortion causing effect is being widely spread by well-meaning, but misinformed pro-life people. The rumor claims to be based on scientific fact when there is no such evidence to
support it... The issue here is a concern for the credibility of the pro-life witness. At present it is being compromised by misinformation and is causing divisiveness within that same community."

Dr. Eyer's premises are, as I understand them:
1) That a lack of scientific evidence leaves us with no grounds upon which to believe/suggest/rumor there to be a link between the pill and abortion (an argument based on biology).
2) Furthermore, that misinformed pro-lifers who espouse such a connection are hurting the pro-life witness.

Dr. Eyer has thus (as far as his logic is concerned) denied the connection between the pill and "an abortion causing effect." Thus Christian couples are saved from this "rumor" set forth by "well-meaning, but misinformed pro-life people." The Pill is safe, he argues.

For the moment I will concede this point to Dr. Eyer (though I do not agree with his premises or his conclusions). Let's say ‘The Pill’ is safe. I would still like to ask the following important questions...

Is the only potential connection between ‘The Pill’ and abortion one of biology? Or, insofar as ‘The Pill’ falls into the larger class of contraceptives is there another connection to abortion? (Notice I have broadened the scope of concern from ‘The Pill’ to contraceptives in general.)

The answers are No and Yes, respectively.

Sam and Bethany Torode, in their book Open Embrace: A Protestant Couple Rethinks Contraception (Eerdmans, 2002), point out that their is also a legal/cultural connection. They write (pg. 66):

In America's history, there has been a clear progression from endorsing contraception to accepting abortion. Legally, "reproductive rights" were first established by the Supreme Court in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which guaranteed the right to contraception for married persons. In Eisenstadt v. Baird (1972), the court extended contraceptive rights to the unmarried. Both decisions overturned state laws, passed by largely Protestant legislatures in the nineteenth century, banning or restricting the sale of contraceptives. In so doing, they set the precedent for the right to abortion created by Roe v. Wade (1973).

On the surface, it seems ridiculous: How could the right to prevent pregnancy be construed as a right to terminate a pregnancy? Writing for the majority in Roe, Justice Harry Blackmun states that the realm of "sexual privacy" established by
Griswold and Eisenstadt "is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy." (Roe v. Wade, 410 US113 (1973), Opinion of the Court, section VII.)

This is a recording of the facts of history by the Torodes. This does not represent their thoughts or opinions on the matter. Rather, it demonstrates the connection in the logic and thinking of the majority of the Justices in Roe v. Wade. In their reasoning and judgment (whether right or wrong) they determined that a woman's right to "privacy" and her decision to engage in contracepting intercourse extends then to her right to decide "whether or not to terminate a pregnancy" (abortion).

There IS a legal/cultural/secular connection between contraceptives and abortion. Like it or not the connection is there. The reasoning and laws that allow abortions to take place rest on the backs of the reasoning and laws that made contraceptives legal.

When it comes to the biology of the workings of ‘The Pill’ we can dismiss the topic – saying that there is no scientific research which we can point to as the smoking gun. But we, and Dr. Eyer, have a more daunting task yet if we wish to eradicate all connections between contraceptives and abortion... We have to deal with the connection named above - a connection that the pro-choice, pro-abortion crowd are well aware of and even celebrate.

"The issue here is a concern for the credibility of the pro-life witness."

To the pro-choice, pro-abortion crowd we, the pro-life contracepting Christians, look less than credible as we cry out against abortions on the one hand, while with the other we whole heartedly embrace - and swallow - the contraceptive age.


My story

Somehow, for me the pill never seemed like an option. As far back as I am able to remember, contraception always seemed to contradict my notion of marriage's purpose.

It's possible that someone could write off my opinion as the product of parental indoctrination. I was homeschooled for most of my life, the oldest of seven children, and raised by parents who practiced NFP. But, at least until I was 16 or 17 and had already personally decided against contraception, I don't remember either of my parents even mentioning birth control. Somehow I came to the conclusion myself.

Perhaps it all boils down to the environment I was raised in. Whether my parents were intentional about it or not, they had created an atmosphere where children anywhere were welcomed with excitement. To me, all those young couples that were waiting to have kids seemed like they weren't quite married. In my teenage mind, why bother marrying if you didn't want to have kids?

Needless to say, the culture's voice on contraception and sexuality broke in eventually. Worse, it was aided by our church.

I remember our pastor cracking a joke during his sermon the Sunday following the birth of my first brother, the fifth child in our family. You know, the usual: "Bob and Mary welcomed another child this week. Thankfully, the doctor has filled them in on what they were doing wrong." Worse, this sort of thinking didn't bother anyone. It was perfectly in sync with the standard worldview of the fellow members of our church. While our family celebrated a new life, our congregation giggled and pointed at its weirdness.

My run-in with a poor theology of family didn't stop there. At church summer camp, rows and rows of attractive 20-something couples offered seminars on "avoiding sex until marriage--because that's when the sex is best!" All of these couples were childless, and planned to remain so for some time. I heard hours upon hours of teaching on sex, but not a word was mentioned about children, or even family.

To me, the disconnect was eerie. Sure, sex brought a man and woman together. But in my thinking, that togetherness served a greater purpose than just satiating the desires of the two of them. It made their relationship with one another stronger--and not just for themselves--for the sake of the family, the church, and the community. To put it bluntly, all those pretty couples seemed selfish.

In practice though, things are never so straight-forward as the ideal. Years later, facing my oncoming wedding day, I struggled with the magnitude of sex without contraceptives. I'd waited so long for this, I argued with myself, shouldn't I be allowed to just enjoy it without interruption?

The true crime of contraceptives has been their complete marring of our vision of sexuality. God created human life in His image. Truly it is the greatest gift we have received. Without life, all God's other gifts are meaningless. Where life is present, God's gifts strengthen it all the more. Instead of seeing sexuality as necessarily joined with life's creation, we have been trained to see it as optionally joined.

A common argument against NFP posits that if some contraceptives are improper because they allow sex without fertilization, than all methods of family planning must be improper--after all, even couples practicing NFP have sex on days when it would be impossible for a woman to conceive.

But contraceptives are not unhealthy only because they prevent fertilization. They are unhealthy because they modify the sexual act itself--essentially shattering the picture of life-giving communion that God has given us in sex. By design, contraceptives divorce sex from its intended connection to the human race as a whole.

A good friend of mine began practicing NFP with his wife after a year of using barrier-method contraceptives. After struggling with the arguments and deciding to make the change, he commented that while using a barrier, he always felt the message he was sending his wife was "I don't want all of this." The use of contraceptives had essentially divorced him from his wife--and divorced them both from sex's greater purpose.

My family celebrated the one-year birthday of our first daughter just one month ago. We've been practicing NFP since day one. It hasn't always been easy. Especially when faced with the seemingly care-free marriages of many of our peers, it can be easy to say "What the heck were we thinking? Were we thinking at all?" Practicing NFP has not always been easy. Sometimes, when looking at the alternatives, it can seem downright crazy.

But the thought of trying anything else seems like trading wine for Welch's, a cosmic mystery for a cheap paperback. For us, the question has become not so much what might we gain by using contraceptives--more time, money, sleep--but what might we lose? The alternatives pale in comparison.


Your Stories... (Discussion pt. #2)

So how about all of you? I know by now that this blog has some gained at least some readership. What is your story as a married couple living in this contraceptive age? What wisdom were you, or have you been given during the period of your engagement. Or, as a single person, what are your thoughts, hopes, and convictions on the matter? What teachings and pastoral care concerning marriage, procreation, and contraception have you received from the Lord's Church?

I am looking forward to reading your stories. I expect that many experiences, burdens, surprises, and joys will be shared. It will be interesting if we see any common themes even in the midst of so many individual stories.


Correction... Addition...

Caspar has helpfully pointed out that that the proposed order of discussion found in Beginnings is incomplete. So, a point #4 has been added to that post. He also points out that in many senses this discussion has the cart before the horse. Systematically, starting at the new point #4 would make more sense in that if #4 were demonstrated successfully then there would be no need for particular discussions on things such as 'The Pill' and NFP. In many regards he is correct.

Nevertheless, I am going to suggest that we maintain the current course of discussion. Why? Because I believe it follows the progression in thoughts/beliefs/and practice that many of us have been on. It is the story of the journey that many Christian marriages have embarked upon in recent years. However, do not be mistaken, this is not to suggest in good post-modern Oprah-esque terms that my journey is normative for me, your journey is normative for you, and never the twain shall meet. The results of such endeavors are usually, "Well I think..." "That's great for you, but I think..."

Rather, our individual experiences should lead us to ask questions about life together in community, as the Lord's body, under Christ Jesus who is the head of His Church. Ultimately, and primarily we are interested in what the Lord has to say about the topic, and what the Church, therefore, has been given to believe, teach, and confess.


Some links

These are some links that I found while searching "the pill deaths, Puerto Rico."

They are not from sites that are opposed to the pill, or other birth control. In fact one of them is from a feminist webpage.

I post them because I find then to be ironic. They all discuss the high risk of illness and death for women if on the pill for extended periods of time, but none suggest that women do not use them.

They also discuss the controversial deaths of women used as test subjects for the pill in Puerto Rico, and how they have been prevented from happening again by lowering the doses of estrogen in the pill. What they do not mention is that by lowering the levels of estrogen to protect women, that is when the pill is less likely to have anovulatory effects, and breakthrough ovulation is more likely to occur.


2 Competing Views On ECs

Emergency Contraceptives are all the rage. You hear reports about the ongoing FDA controversy on both nightly news and in news print. The question is whether to make these available over-the-counter or not. Let me just say that I find the term 'Emergency Contraceptive' to be a misnomer. Where's the emergency? Is someone bleeding or dieing? Is pregnancy an emergency? It's not an illness or disease. Or is it?

Of greater concern to me, however, is how within the LC-MS we have two competing views from two different authorities as to how ECs work and whether, therefore, they are to be avoided.

Where do these two views come from? They come from 'Lutherans For Life' and from the 'Concordia Bioethics Institute'.

If I were to go to 'Lutherans for Life' on the issue I would find that Dr. James Lamb writes the following in an LFL informational pamphlet entitled 'Emergency Contraception':

...It is true that EC - which is really a high dose of the "birth control" pill - does work by stopping ovulation, slowing sperm travel, and, if ovulation and fertilization have occurred, by preventing implantation of the embryo...


...We could talk about the side effects, the risks, and the dangers of young girls being able to obtain the use of these drugs. But only one word is necessary - LIFE... All life - regardless of circumstances or condition or stage along life's continuum - is a gift from God, a gift to be protected and nourished.

Going on this information I would conclude that the use of ECs among Christians would be immoral because of the potential to end a life that is already begun. I would also perk up to the statement that ECs are a "high does of the 'birth control' pill," and I would ask my self whether or not this tells me something about the nature of 'The Pill'.

But then again, maybe I didn't look to LFL for guidance on the issue. Maybe I looked to the Concordia Bioethics Institute. On their website I could find the following from their director:

[ECs are] basically a high does of the same hormones found in the Pill taken within 3 days after intercourse and again 12 hours later... Taking high levels of hormones can cause serious side effects which should be monitored by a doctor. Use of this drug may seem to legitimize sexual activity outside of marriage. Also, the morning-after pill does not protect from AIDS or other sexually-transmitted diseases. And there is the concern that unsupervised use of ECs could cause abortions. Package inserts say one way that EC works is by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting into the lining of the uterus—which would be an abortion; although, to my knowledge, there has been no scientific evidence to prove that point...

Do you see the stark difference between these two responses to ECs? Dr. Lamb and LFL don't even see the need to discuss the numerous possible side effects of ECs (medical and cultural side effects). And why not? Because the first thing that is blaringly obvious is that one way ECs (super doses of the chemicals found in 'The Pill') work is by causing loss of life - micro-abortions.

The director of the Concordia Bioethics Institute, on the other hand, - unwilling to attest any credence to the abortifacient concern as being anything other than a trumped up claim found on a packaging insert - can only talk about all of those secondary things that Dr. Lamb had no need to talk about.

Does the right hand know what the left hand is writing on this matter?


LC-MS 'Notes for Life' and 'The Pill'

Tina, thank you for outlining for us How 'The Pill' Works.

And Erich, thank you for pointing us to Postfertilization Effects of Oral Contraceptives and Their Relationship to Informed Consent -- Larimore and Stanford
I would recommend that all who desire to take part in this conversation take the time to read this paper by Larimore and Stanford.

Like Tina, Larimore and Stanford outline the possible effects of oral contraceptives - including postfertilization effects. They write that "despite the evidence, which suggests that postfertilization effects for OCs are operational at least some of the time, and the fact that a postfertilization mechanism for OCs is described in the
Physicians' Desk Reference, in Drug Facts and Comparisons, and in most standard gynecologic, family practice, nursing, and public health textbooks, we anecdotally find that few physicians or patients are aware of this possibility..."

They conclude by saying, "The available evidence supports the hypothesis that when ovulation and fertilization occur in women taking OCs, postfertilization effects are operative on occasion to prevent clinically recognized pregnancy..."

These are the exact reasons that my wife and I, and many other couples, have chosen to either refrain from using 'The Pill' or have chosen to cease using the 'The Pill'. Knowing that there is even a credible possibility (demonstrated by Larimore and Stanford to be a strong likelihood) of a post-fertilization/abortifacient effect is enough to make the stand against 'The Pill'.

I recall finding all of this information out for the first time. I was upset. Why hadn't anybody told me before? What would Megan and I do? This was going to mess with our plan to not have kids for x years. I was somewhat tormented during this time not knowing what we would use. But I also became quite resolved that we would not use OCs - a decision that has gotten easier every day since as I have become more and more aware of their other harmful attributes.

Part of my resolve came from reading Luther's Large Catechism - in particular his goods on the fifth commandment. In fact, Rev. Matt Harrison, the Executive Director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care quotes the very section that brought me this resolve in the most current Notes for Life. Harrison writes:

In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther wrote, "If you see anyone who is condemned to death or in similar peril and do not save him, although you have the means and ways to do so, you have killed him. It will be of no help for you to use the excuse that you did not assist their death by word or deed, for you have withheld your love from them and robbed them of the kindness

by means of which their lives might have been saved.

Harrison continues:

The task is daunting. In fact, it is impossible - without Christ. But we have been baptized. We have been forgiven and loved and empowered by Christ. We can make a tremendous difference - one life at a time.

How right he is! Granted, he is not talking here about OCs. Never the less, the truth still applies to our present conversation. Do we have a scientific study that irrefutably demonstrates that OCs have a postfertilization/abortifacient effect (an eyewitness account)? No. Do we have a great deal of credible evidence that suggests that it is the case (corroborating circumstantial evidence)? Yes! This then should be more than enough for us as the Lord's baptized people to step away from the 'gray area' of OCs where at best we live in uncertainty over whether we have harmed our neighbor - even mortally. Harrison got it right in his front page article in 'Notes for Life.'

Yet, later in the same newsletter things went so wrong. In the section entitled
Bioethics in the Parish: A Q&A with Dr. Kevin Voss, the following conversation is recorded:

Q. What kinds of reproductive issues might a pastor have to deal with in his ministry?

A. One that comes to mind is the use of contraceptives, specifically with married couples. Couples may question which ones have the potential to cause abortions and which do not. Some contraceptives fall into a gray area, like the pill, which is said to have the potential to cause abortions. One bit of evidence for this position is that the drug insert for the pill says one mode of action is to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, though there has been no scientific evidence of that to date...

This has been Dr. Voss' repeated stance and one that quite frankly bewilders me. I find his report of the situatation to be patently false for the following reasons:

1. As noted above, a great deal more literature than just the 'drug insert' suggests that a postfertilization/abortifacient action exists.

2. As noted above, while there is no scientific "eyewitness account" there is plenty of scientific evidence surrounding the issue that parishioners should be made aware of (Larimore and Stanford's concern for 'Informed Consent').

Furthermore, he never then does give pastoral guidance. Instead he comes off to me as dismissive. The closest he comes to addressing the topic with pastoral care is when he calls it a "gray area". Admittedly, at the end of his article, after many other Q&As he concludes with the following:

We always address issues through the Gospel, the cross of Christ. That is really the lens through which everything is focused...

Unfortunately, I have yet to see, hear, or read Dr. Voss do this on the this issues. I would welcome it if he did. And I would welcome anyone else, through the Cross of Christ, to convince me as to why I should hold a contrary view on 'The Pill' than I do.

Looking forward to your comments and critiques.


How 'The Pill' Works

Tina writes:

I'll take a stab at number 1 - why the Pill presents a problem for us.

The Pill works in 3 possible ways. It's main effect is to prevent ovulation. But, breakthrough ovulation does occur (and as the level of hormones has decreased over time to reduce side effects, this breakthrough could possibly be higher). In this case, the 2nd mechanism - thickening the cervical mucous so that sperm cannot get through to fertilize the egg--would come into play. Both of these mechanisms are truly "contraceptive"--they prevent fertilization.

However, the 3rd mechanism is problematic in that it thins the lining of the uterus, making it inhospitable to a newly fertilized egg (a baby), so that it cannot implant. This would cause the abortion of a week old baby.

The dilemna occurs because no one knows how often this 3rd mechanism actually happens. We know that all 3 mechanisms fail and women do sometimes get pregnant while on the Pill, and go on to deliver healthy babies. But there have been no studies to show how often fertilizations occur and fail--nor is there any incentive for the makers of the Pill to conduct these studies.

I've heard this 3rd mechanism described as a "marketing ploy" to increase the user's confidence in the product. But this is described in the very technical patient insert that is impossible to read or understand without an MD--NOT in the slick pamphlets handed out at the doctor's office.

I'm not sure why pro-lifers are so reluctant to take the Pill makers at their word when they say how the product works. Perhaps our ease and convenience are more important? And if it is explained away in this manner, the consience can be soothed.

Obviously, for we who believe life begins at conception, this 3rd mechanism is a problem. Ob-gyn's will not consider this to be an abortion, however. The medical community defines pregnancy as beginning at *implantation*, not fertilization. If the baby doesn't implant, the woman is not pregnant, so she cannot abort.

For me, because the risk is unknown, I chose to not take the risk with the life of one of my children. It seems others hold the opinion that because the risk is unsubstantiated, we can continue using the Pill in good conscience, until it is proven otherwise. I hold that we should NOT use it until it is proven that it does not pose a threat to a tiny baby.

I believe that if we are to be wrong in this matter, I would rather be wrong on the side of life.

Respectfully submitted,

TIME to talk about THE PILL

Thus begins our conversation concerning 'The Pill'
Part 1. as outlined



On November 13th I commented on Devonas post 'Introductions'. In that comment I suggested that we might frame an orderly discussion over the next days, weeks, months based on the following:

1. State clearly what our concern (those of us who hold it) over The Pill is and show how Confessional Lutheranism would lead us in the midst of that concern.

2. Demonstrate somewhat anecdotally where the journey away from The Pill has led some couples. (This may be a move to NFP for some couples, or to other contraceptives for others.)

3. Make a two-part (or more) case for NFP:
aaaa. What distinguishes NFP from contraceptives? (This will then in part disarm the objection in b..)
bbbb. Put forth a case on how to respond to those who level the objection that NFP is no different than contracepting because the married couple is still exercising their will over God' (There are certainly different variations on this objection, sometimes put in question form).
cccc. (which I am only now adding) Make a case based upon 3a. and 3b. why NFP is to be preferred. (This will sound presumptuous at the present to some, but my hope and prayer is that the discussion leading up to it will validate c..)

4. Make a case (contra 3.) that NFP is just one more contraceptive. Though different in many ways from other contraceptives, it is just one more way of preventing the fruits of marriage that the Lord has commanded/blessed marriage with.

This then constitutes the order of conversation that I am proposing. Does anyone have any additions, subtractions, objections?

Along the way, of course, the path may wander. Other tid-bits may be thrown in. We will find ourselves having discussions over the Word of God, Natural Law, Church History, modern culture, The Roman Church, etc.

I am excited about what is to come. I welcome all discussion on the matter whether for or against what is written. Contention will lead to clarification, and can and will happen in an atmosphere that need not be uncharitably contentious.

This blog is described as an 'open blog'. If you have a particular heart for this matter I would be glad to add you to the blog in such a way that you can author original posts. At the same time, we all recognize that an open blog can only be so open in this regard. Therefore, many others of you will choose to make your contributions to the discussion through comments. A third option would be to e-mail me a post and I would be glad to put it up in your name.

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments.

In Our Lord,


My introduction

I've been invited to share here, which is both cool and intimidating. But what the hey? I've got nothing to lose, and I'm a blogging addict so here goes.

These are issues very close to my heart, and while I do not have the theological background that David has, and I don't have the medical background that many others have, I do that have the perspective of a 23 year old mother who practices NFP.

The problem of contraception and abortifacients has been getting more airtime. It keeps popping up on the Lutheran Blogosphere, here and there, about once a month. That encourages me, and I hope that maybe this blog can become grand central station for Lutherans to dialogue.

For now I'll just give a little history of who I am, and why I take the position that I do regarding these Life-issues.

Rob and I are Olivia's parents. She came a lot earlier than most first children do. We weren't even married for one year. We've been practicing the Creighton Method of NFP, and we were open to babies from the beginning.

Let's back up...

I was on the pill off and on before I met Rob for various medical reasons, but I hated it. I hated being tied down to medication and I hated taking the pill at the same time every day. So I quit.

This was a blessing in disguise because I was later diagnosed with Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome. This disease is often treated with the pill, interestingly enough, but people are finding that while the pill helps a woman cycle regularly, it does not heal PCOS and may even cause permanent damage and serious infertility.

I discovered all of this after becoming engaged to Rob. His mom encouraged me to see her doctor about my irregular cycles and that is when all of my suspicions about the pill (and other contraceptives) were validated.

Rob had always assumed he would practice NFP since he is the oldest of 7 children from NFP practicing parents. With his encouragement, and the support of his mom and our doctor I hopped on board the Natural Family Train, unsure of where it would take us.

It was a struggle for Rob and I to learn the method. It was a struggle to know that it was up to our willpower to prolong our childless years. It was struggle to know that all of our friends would be pursuing lucrative futures, and that I would most likely be a mom before I was a college graduate. I was only 21 and I was already preparing myself, in actuality, for motherhood.

And all the things that we struggled over and feared came true. But it wasn't at all like we thought it would be. We love our life, and we love our marriage. We know that God has given us the vocation of the parents of Olivia and we feel honored and blessed to do our best to fulfill it. And even though I am sometimes lonely, and I'm defintely the youngest mom I know that wasn't devastated to have a baby, I am happy.

Because of all that I have learned in the past two or three years about the pill, and the value of life, the topic has become one of my greatest passions. I crave the opportunity to share what I know, and I love to see the change that it makes in families. This is why I joined this blog. I could tell you all in one post on my blog Love and Blunder, it would make you think for a moment, and then you'd be on your way. I want the impression to last longer than that. Here the issue is ever pressing, and there will always be new information, a new perspective, and hopefully a new author to share the truth about contraceptives and their negative effect on the Church, the world, families, women and children.

I am excited to see the discussion unfold. I am excited to share my experiences. And I'm excited to get to know other NFP practicing and NFP-curious Lutherans and other confessional Christians. I am excited to be a voice for the unborn babies dieing for their parents' convenience, and for infertile mothers being medicated but not healed. Right now, Rob and I are alone in the world, and hopefully through fruitful dialogue, we'll become the norm and not the exception.

Thanks Pastor Dave for the invitation and the opportunity to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, always in the shadow of the cross.


Disappointment. Encouragement.

I've arrived home from The Image Of God - Its Meaning and Implication: Bioethics Conference. A great deal of the conference was just incredible -dealing with stem cell research, ebmryonic and cloning issues, end-of-life-issues, and ending-of-life issues.

The breakout session Implications of Hormonal Birth Control in Family Life and Pastoral Care was as I feared misnamed (read post from 11.7.05). Instead it became just one more meandering discussion that would have been more honestly titled Are there Implications of Hormonal Birth Control? The answers from the panelists on this question included awkward silence, no - not until a scientific study is published saying so, and possibly. Noticeably absent from the panel was a reputable, qualified person (such individuals exist a-plenty in St. Louis within the medical community!) representing a very real group of concerned Christians - and a very real group of Lutherans at that - who believe that there are grave life-taking implications of Hormonal Birth Control. This group is certainly not unknown which makes the absence of their representation all the more troubling.

Yet even as I sat there during this panel discussion worked up, frustrated, and disappointed that the discussion had been reframed and that representation did not run the spectrum, there was also encouragement to be taken. Others in the room apparently were experiencing some of the same frustration and disappointment. Ad it wasn't just a group of overly zealous buddies from sem days past. There were women, students, wives, pastors, mothers and more who by their thoughtful questions and comments demonstrated that concern over the implications of Hormonal Birth Control is real and widespread throughout the LC-MS even if it is grass-roots. It won't do to simply dismiss these concerns - equating the risks involved to the risks you and I take every day when we hop in a car (an analogy that was used by one member of the panel - and a false analogy at that). It won't do to suggest that our pastoral or parental response simply be to label these as "gray areas" and commend or young people to "let your soul be your guide" (as espoused by the theologian STING). No, as a Synod, as the people of God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we walk together in the Gospel - joyously walking in the light and avoiding the gray areas when they can be avoided as they certainly can here!

Christ Be Our Leader...

I would more than welcome further comments, concerns, thoughts from othes who were in attendance.

A Shameless Plug...

As I stated earlier today, the Bioethics conference was overall quite impressive. One speaker who thoroughly impressed me was Dr. David Menton - a professor emeritus of Anatomy at Washington University in St. Louis. Prior to lunch Dr. David Menton blew me away with his presentation entitled Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. I own the PBS video Life's Greatest Miracle. That video is an excellent source for visually showing the miraculous nature of fertilization, gestation, and birth. But, it doesn't hold a candle toDr. Menton's presentation. His is singlehandedly the best presntation on the subject I have ever heard. He showed how at each step life truly is a miracle. How demonstrated time and again not simply that we are knit together in the womb, but that we are done so in incredible fashion! Weren't there? Not to worry. You can buy a DVD recording of his presentation Fearfully and Wonderfully Made for the put-us-out-of-business-price of $9 at answersingenesis.org. I shamelessly plug this because the presentation was just that good, and I believe that it would be a great resource for Christian homes and churches.


Is the bug spreading?

It seems that the discussion about the pill and its effects on marriage and women's health is running through all of Christendom.

A good friend of mine sent me this article yesterday. It's a little less weighty and theology-y, which is good for people like me. It's also entertaining to read. So here you go:

A Hard Pill to Swallow

Mircette and I became one shortly before my wedding day. In a way, my union with the wallet-sized green box of 28 pills was more complete than the bond I had with my husband. We devoured each other: I swallowed the little tablet daily, and its hormones penetrated the cells of my body.

Read on...


Luther on Marriage

Our natural reason looks at marriage and turns up its nose and says, ‘Alas! Must I rock the baby? Wash its diapers? Make its bed? Smell its stench? Stay up nights with it? Take care of it when it cries? Heal its rashes and sores? And on top of that care for my spouse, provide labor at my trade, take care of this and take care of that?...

What then does the Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, “O God, I confess I am not worthy to rock that little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of a child and its mother. How is it that I without any merit have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and they most precious will? Oh, how gladly I will do so.”

I recall how astounded I was when I first read Luther here as he writes on marriage. It is no doubt surprising as he hardly talks about the husband and wife but turns his attention immediately to children and how the old man despises the care of them while the new man in Christ welcomes them as a blessing from God that he is in no way worthy to recieve.

I suppose we could chalk it up to the times... being primitive and all back in 16th century Europe... unable to control the sizes of their families... We've advanced! Or to use a loved word from western culture, we've experienced great "progress" in technological spheres that has brought us out of those primitive times to a time where we can keep our fruit in check. Times have changed!

And yet, as I reread what Luther writes above on marriage I am reminded of something. I am reminded that some things haven't changed. Some things don't change. The old man still sees children as a blight unless we can fully choose the time, place, circumstances, and number of completness.

One thing is certain, however. Whether a Christian couple contracepts or not, when after 9 and 1/2 months they hold that gift of God in their arms they can't help but to say with Luther, "O God, I confess I am not worthy to rock that little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of a child and its mother. How is it that I without any merit have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and they most precious will? Oh, how gladly I will do so."

I stand thankful for this even as I envy Luther's primitive age when young Christian married couples were brought to this point of humility and thankfulness from the conception of their marriage bed.


Roma-phobic Conjugal Dispensationalists?

Could somebody please tell me why Lutherans know next to nothing about Natural Family Planning - NFP? I'm one of them, or at least I was.

Why is it that we will tell our daughters, sisters, soon-to-be-brides that 'The Pill' is the way to go - treating their fertility like a malady to be remedied? Medicating them for something that is neither a sickness nor disease. Telling our young brides effectively, "Honey, you know I love everything about you right... that is except your womb."

Why is it that the sage advice that so many young people have received from our parents is, "Do yourselves a favor... give yourselves time, several years, before having kids. You deserve it. You'll need that time to get to know each other..."? Why do we give that advice to young married couples for the supposed health of their marriage when the statistics tell us that those marriages that are blessed with children during the first two years of marriage are statistically healthier and longer lasting than those that wait?

Why don't we commend our daughters, sisters, soon-to-be-brides and their soon-to-be-husbands to consider NFP? It treasures and celebrates the marriage bond and the God given fertility therein from the wedding day on and this turns out to be healthy as demonstrated by the fact that couples who use NFP experience divorce at a much lower rate than contracepting couples! NFP does not lead us to be dispensationalists in the marriage bed- for a time overcoming and trumping/tricking their fertility only to make a radical shift at another time in an attempt to fully cherish and embrace that which we just sought to overcome!

Why then do most Lutherans know next to nothing about NFP? Could it be that we laugh with some 70 plus % percent of contracepting Catholics at their official church stance against contraceptives? "When will Rome get current with the times," we ask? (Interestingly this is the same form/line of questioning that is happening within the ELCA as they work on their 'Journeying Together Faithfully' study on 'sexuality and the role of same gender unions in the church.') Are we Roma-phobic? Well, yes, I believe that to some degree that is the case. But I believe that there is something worse yet at play...

Question: Are you ignorant or apathetic?
Answer: I don't know and I don't care!

Of the two, ignorance is the lesser problem. Ignorance can be remedied with good information and clear instruction – something Lutherans have always prized themselves on. Ignorance is real and yet there is no reason that it be anything other than temporary.

Apathy... there's the bugger, and from my perspective it is forever more difficult to deal with. How do you deal with a person who doesn’t know and worse yet doesn’t care to know? How do you deal with a church that is much the same?

With one voice we groan at the unhealthy state of marriage in our world today. And yet we ourselves participate so fully and so uncritically in the very same culture that has given rise to this sad state of affairs.

As Confessional/Sacramental Lutherans will we take the time to learn why prior to 1930 every Christian Church, including our own, stood along side the Roman Church in condemning contraception and espousing a better way? And the bigger question is this: When this path before us is illumined by the Cross of Christ will we care to do anything about it in our own marriages? In the church?


Lutherans For Life Bioethics Conference - The Image of God: It's Meaning and Implications

I'm headed to the Lutherans For Life Bioethics Conference toward the end of this week - well at least one day of it... I wish they would move the annual conference toward the front part of any given week instead of the tail end leading into a Sunday.

I'm particularly thrilled that they are kicking it off with a one day bioethics conference. From the main speakers to the break-out sessions I am hopeful that the content will be great.

Of particular interest to me is a break-out session in the afternoon entitled: Implications of Hormonal Birth Control in Family Life and Pastoral Care (Panel Discussion) – Rev. Dr. Paul Raabe, Rev. Dr. Dean Wenthe, Dr. David Menton, PH.D.

I am very curious as to where this discussion will go. I will be greatly disappointed if it ends up simply being a debate as to whether or not 'The Pill' is an abortifacient. This discussion has already taken place with no consensus being reached (a panel discussion on KFUO in May 17th of '04 between Dr. Weise, Kevin Voss, and Aaron Wolf).

The question as I see it is should be framed something like this: In the knowledge of (although rare and difficult if not impossible to detect), or even in the uncertainty over whether hormonal contraceptives cause abortions what is our response as Christ's Church, as Christ's Families? What will be our Pastoral Care for the Church and for Families?

There are several other things happening in the background that draw this discussion into an even more interesting light;

First, for those of you who don't know, Lutherans For Life have a statement about Contraceptives/Abortifacients that includes their understanding of "Birth Control" pills.
It reads:
WHEREAS, Scriptural and scientific witness agree that life
begins at conception; and
WHEREAS, Some abortifacients, such as the IUD, the “morning
after pill,” and RU-486, which destroy the fertilized
egg or prevent its implantation in the uterine wall
have been mislabeled as contraceptives; and
WHEREAS, “Birth control” pills, promoted as contraceptives,
thin the uterine lining as a back-up mechanism and,
therefore, can be abortifacient in nature; therefore
be it
RESOLVED That Lutherans For Life opposes the use of
abortifacients and urges its members to become
educated on the nature and effects of all
forms of contraception and abortifacients.

Interestingly, at least to me is that LFL's statement has become stronger over past years. In the past the last 'WHEREAS' statement read: many "birth control" pills...

The implication of many "birth control" pills being abortifacient in nature is that some are not! When asked, however, to produce any of the names of the some LFL freely admitted that they did not know the name of any and that they were "perplexed" at the wording themselves. Within a couple of months the wording was changed to how it reads today.

Second, in the midst of LFL's statement becoming stronger and labeling all oral hormonal contraceptives as "abortifacient in nature" you have vocal others in our synod being dismissive of the abortifacient nature of the lot all together. That company includes Dr. Kevin Voss who currently heads up the Concordia Bioethics Institute at Concordia Mequon, Dr. Richard Eyer who formerly headed up the Bioethics Institute, and finally Dr. Eyer's brief paper concerning the "rumored" abortifacient nature of chemical contraceptives - a paper that is found on the LC-MS website acting as our official unofficial statement on the matter.

Third, finally, and thankfully, we have Resolution 6-10 from the 2004 LC-MS National Convention working somewhere behind the scenes. It reads:

To Call Upon Board for Human Care
Ministries to Review
Overture 3-102 (CW, p. 195)
WHEREAS, God is the Creator and Giver of All Life; and
WHEREAS, Life begins at conception; and
WHEREAS, We are not to take the life of another but,
rather, to leave that in God’s hands; and
WHEREAS, Some abortifacients which destroy the embryo
or prevent its implantation in the uterine wall have been
mislabeled as contraceptives; and
WHEREAS, Some birth control pills thin the uterine wall
so that if conception does take place the embryo will not be
able to implant, resulting in an early abortion; and
WHEREAS, Contraception is commonly practiced, but its
workings are not well understood by many; therefore be it
Resolved, That the Board for Human Care Ministries review
the various birth control products, clarifying which
ones act sometimes or all the time as abortifacients; and be
it further
Resolved, That this information be made available to
pastors and laypeople of the LCMS.
Action: Adopted (10)
(The resolution was adopted as presented without debate [Yes:
955; No: 52].)

There is some clear acknowledgment here that at least some birth control pills do at times cause abortions. Further yet, there is the desire to delineate which ones do or don't. Why? So that pastors and lay people can make informed, God fearing decisions in light of The Cross of Christ.

Yes, since that resolution has been passed I have wondered who the Board of Human Care has gathered together to do the "review" and draft any literature that will be forthcoming. If Voss/Eyer are a part of this, which I would expect that they are, my fear is that what will be produced will simply be a beefed up version of Dr. Eyer's above mentioned brief paper. I am trusting, however, that the Board of Human Care also has LFL heavily involved in this, and that LFL will stand by their findings.

We will see... In the meantime, I am praying ahead of the conference that the Lord will bless it, the presenters, the discussions, the debate - to the glory of Christ and the blessing of His bride The Church. I would ask you to do the same.


Cruising for Pill info on the info Super-High-Way..

So you've got a parishoner, she and her fiance are preparing to be married, and they're on the hunt for the contraceptive that will best suit their needs. He just wants for her to get 'The Pill', but she's remembers hearing once from a friend that maybe there is something bad about it. So, she asks around, reports to him. Together, they decide to check out what the church says about it all. So they hop on www.lcms.org and after a quick search they come up with the following article:

The claim that hormonal contraceptives such as the birth control pill include an abortioncausing effect is being widely spread by well-meaning, but misinformed prolife people. The rumor claims to be based on scientific fact when there is no such evidence to support it. It may be that those in the Christian community who are against the use of birth control contraceptives for other reasons are furthering the confusion by championing this rumor. Whether birth control pills are or are not a legitimate means of determining the size of one’s family is not the issue in this article. The issue here is a concern for the credibility of the pro-life witness. At present it is being compromised by misinformation and is causing divisiveness within that same community.
Twenty-one pro-life physicians, in 1998, jointly studied the claim that birth control pills cause abortions and concluded that it is unfounded. They offer as their case much medical evidence that is beyond the scope of this brief article and the reader is directed to the footnote below. Much of the birth-control-pills-cause-abortions argument among prolife, non-medical people is based on the printed claim of abortifacient-effect on the packaging of the contraceptive product. This packaging claim however appears to be more a marketing strategy (encouraging buyers to trust their product to do the job) than
actual fact. The manufacturer’s claim is that, in addition to preventing ovulation, the pill produces an effect on the lining of the uterus (endometrium) that is hostile to implantation. According to the twenty-one prolife physicians who have studied this, there is no evidence for this being the case. They conclude that even where there is a thinning of the lining of the uterus, the fact that a fertilized egg (blastocyst) can implant on the lining of the fallopian tube (ectopic pregnancy), the body cavity itself, and elsewhere where there is nothing but a hostile environment, and can still thrive until disrupted by outgrowing its space (thus endangering the life of the mother), indicates that a thinning lining of the uterus does not per se cause rejection of a blastocyst. Further, the fact that there are occasional "contraceptive births" where pregnancy does occur even when the woman is on the pill seems to further erode the claim of abortifacient effect.
These pro-life physicians are neither promoting nor discouraging the use of
contraceptives, and they are united in opposition to abortion by any means. They are also concerned, as informed men and women in the field of medicine that a bogus claim discredits the pro-life cause and lowers credibility in the real fight against abortion.

So what's the result of their reading of this brief paper by Dr. Eyer? Well, quite frankly she feels foolish for ever having had concerns about 'The Pill'. He's just glad that the conversation is over. They can resume the course they have set for their upcoming wedding and the first several years of marriage.

But I've got to tell you, as a pastor I read that article and I get upset for the hypothetical couple I have described, and for every other real couple that desires to be married in the Lutheran church. Here are a few things that bug me in particular:

First, how dismissive this brief paper is very concerning to me. And what is that concern? That 'The Pill' may at times act as an abortifacient -it may cause 'micro abortions'. How? The primary way it seeks to work is to stop ovulation, thus preventing sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg - a true contraceptive mechanism. If that fails we have thickened cervical mucous, thus slowing down sperm in their journey - a true contraceptive mechanism. If that fails, not to worry.... the uterus lining for the woman on 'The Pill' is much thinner than it normally would be if she weren't on it. Thus, even if sperm does meet egg and conception takes place the uterus will be "inhospitable" to the 5-7 day old child when it has finished it's journey to the uterus and is looking for a new home for protection and nourishment - an abortifacient mechanism. These are the 3 mechanisms of 'The Pill' as recorded by the drug companies in their full prescribing information. And why do they record these 3 mechanisms? Because the FDA requires of drug companies to report how their drugs work.

Clearly that third mechanism is disturbing for any Christian to hear about. Even if it isn't the primary mechanism, and even if it only rarely comes into play it is disturbing information and it would serve as a deal breaker for the Christian/Pro-Life couple. They would not use any contraceptive that does or even could cause an abortion - particularly when there are other truly contraceptive motheds to choose from.

Yet how does Dr. Eyer respond to this concern. He references a group of 21 doctors and a paper they wrote but never shares any of the goods of that paper. (Nothing like a little name dropping to intimidate you into falling in line.) Furthermore he takes advantage of his reader. Why? Because we are taught to be trusting of our doctors. Well maybe we're also taught to get a second and even a third opinion at times. But golly, if 21 doctors have come to the same 'scientific' conclusion it must be true! What the paper fails to tell the reader is that there have been other papers written and signed by other numerous doctors (OBGYN's primarily in both cases) who have come to the exact opposite conclusion - that the third mechanism of the pill does come into play causing these 'micro abortions'. Then, after strongarming the overly trusting reader with the good reputation of 21 'pro-life' doctors he then goes on to suggest that the 3rd mechanism is only and advertising ploy on 'The Pill' packaging to boost the consumer's trust in the product. The problem is that you simply won't find how 'The Pill' works on the packaging of any birth control pill. You will find it, when supplied, on the full prescribing info.... you know, that small piece of paper in 6pt. font with all of the medical stuff and warnings on it.

Second, I take great objection to Dr. Eyer's choice of words, and yet I don't believe that he could have chosen any other. In particular I take objection to that fact that the word "seems" is found in his article. He writes, "Further, the fact that there are occasional 'contraceptive births' where pregnancy does occur even when the woman is on the pill seems to further erode the claim of abortifacient effect.

I would neever dream of standing before my or any congregation on a Sunday morning saying, "It seems that your sins are forgiven." It is a weak word. It is a word of uncertainty. It is not a word that can deliver the Gospel. No, it leads to doubt, uncertainty, the law.

I could go on and on. I'm just so disappointed that such a weighty subject is addressed on our synodical website in such a flippant, one sided manner. It's time for some more serious conversation on the subject. I hope you'll join in.