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.


Christopher Gillespie said...


Lutherans fear the freedom that we have in the Gospel. This freedom can be exercised in a number of fashions. In this situation, there are two standpoints, both a result of fear. One, we fear for the death of a child in utero. Two, we fear of being legalistic. Of one, erring on the side of life clearly is stance scripture takes. On the other hand, legalism while inherently humanistic and sinful still can be used for the good of the church by God. Liturgical matters, rite agendas, and such have a legalistic tone and yet preserve and present what is not free to be interpreted in a proper light.

We're so scared about saying the wrong thing we say nothing at all. This is the symptom of Dr. Voss's statement. I'm reminded of one my professors, Dr. David Scaer. One of my classmates pointed out an exegetical error in his book on James published by CPH. It passed doctrinal review and all and yet had an error. Of course, he was willing to admit he was wrong.

Yet, what if he had decided to say nothing for fear of error. He would have been left with a book devoid of any exegesis or any inspiration.

The net result is we don't rely on his Word through the Spirit to provide these answers. We rely on scientific study and our reason, both of which will fail. Some will use their conscience, sinful and all.

Okay, on to the discussion,

Perhaps the greater problem here is using chemicals to alter the bodies behavior. Regardless of its abortificient effect or not, should be using a chemical which does not provide positive health benefit but rather can drastically affect the hormonal balance of the body? Poison is poison.


Tina said...

Trying to look at both sides here. Perhaps part of the "pastoral concern" is that if pastors tell women (who may have been using oc's for years), of this effect, and it isn't true, they may have caused a tremendous amount of guilt for that couple. I know in Randy Alcorn's book, he mentions how he really wanted the connection to be false, because he had counselled many couples to USE the Pill. He felt guilt about that.

Thank God the blood of Jesus can cover all of our sins--even the ones we didn't know about!

On the other side, NOT telling people when you have credible evidence (as in the Larimore article--very good!), can create a tremendous amount of anger that it was withheld. *I* was angry when I found out, and I'd only used it for a few months. Side-effects and the uneasiness of all those chemicals caused us to change direction.

So, I guess my question is, "What do we do with this knowledge?" I mean, you can't just really show up at the next LWML and spell it out. And it's not like intimate details of contraception use work their way into the conversation in the narthex after church.

Regardless of where the conversation goes with respect to NFP, I think THIS information needs to be shared, somehow.


Devona said...

Chris, your last sentence is quite poignant.

While the issue of protecting the unborn is extremely important, and should not be overlooked or brushed aside. The Pill kills more than just babies. The women who take it are putting themselves at heightened risk to cancers, and heart disease (I know, I'm repeating myself).

The wife who takes OCs and the husband who permits or encourages it are guilty of placing the woman at risk of death, as well as the potential children that are conceived.

That would also fall under Luther's explanation of C#5. If the woman DOES develop cancer, both she and the husband are guilty of not preventing it by avoiding known cancer causing drugs.