Contraception and Murder

In order to guard ourselves from defending an argument that is possibly based on a false or unverifiable premise, we must always first define and defend the first principles upon which our arguments are based.  In order to achieve this, I often write down my arguments on matters simply for the purpose of discovering the premises upon which they are based.  Online discussions like we have here can serve such a purpose well.  After putting my arguments down in black and white, I often discover assumed premises that I was totally unaware I subscribed to without evidence.  Sometimes opponents make me aware of these wrongly assumed premises by arguing with me.  These hidden premises are, more often than not, assumptions of the secular culture that I have wrongly accepted without criticism. 

The premise I am having the most difficulty with in our most recent discussions on abortifacients is the one upon which the distinction between contraception and abortifacient birth control is based.  Since abortion was legalized just before I began learning about the science of reproduction in public school "sex ed" and biology classes, I simply have always assumed that it was a clear and defensible religious premise that the "conception of life" is the moment when an egg is fertilized.  Birth control was presented as a moral choice, even a social responsibility.  Abortion, being legal, was presented as debatable only from a religious perspective.  Abortion could be considered murder if one believed the religious tenants that "life begins at conception" and "conception equals fertilization"  In fact, birth control was always presented as a way to decrease the demand for abortion.

In recent years, reflecting back on the history of the acceptance in our culture of birth control and then abortion, I have come to believe that the premise that a new soul is conceived at the "moment" of fertilization is guided more by expediency than principle.  Sexual reproduction, and even fertilization itself, is a biological process with many stages.  The Bible indicates that we are sinful from the moment we are conceived, but the Bible is totally silent regarding what point in that biological process a new human soul is "conceived."  Without such knowledge, how can we definitively state that one act is contraception while another is murder? 

Perhaps more importantly, even if we could discern from Scripture, with the help of natural law and human reason, the moment at which this distinction could be made, what is the real difference theologically between contraception and murder?  The laws of civil government, including portions of the Mosaic law, make distinctions of that sort for the purpose of applying secular punishments.  In God's eyes, however, if we despise our neighbor we are just as guilty of murder as if we actually murdered him.  How much more can you despise others than to wish they were never born, or to hope they never will be?

The government should use civil law differently in regard to various criminal acts to address the temporal consequences in a just manner.  However, we do not make such distinctions when it comes to the care of souls.

From a theological or pastoral perspective, actual murder can be a sin that one succumbs to in a moment of rage, just as adultery can occur in a moment of sinful passion.  Often these sins are followed by virtually immediate contrition and repentance.  Contraception, on the other hand, is by its very nature much more premeditated.  One doesn't stumble into a contraceptive act.  One plans it and justifies it. 

Again, I think St. John Chrysostom was right on the money when he stated:
"Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives].... Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation." [Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 24, A.D. 391]


The Conception of our Lord

Here is one of the most beautiful pro-life sermons you will ever hear on the Incarnation of our Lord, by my faithful pastor, Rev. Roger B. James, of Zion-Marshall, MI. Please listen to all 15 wonderful minutes. I will also post a portion of the sermon text below which is of the most direct significance to the subject of this blog, contraception.

I'm sure I don't need to tell readers here how brave and faithful a pastor must be to preach and teach with such bold and unambiguous truth on the subject of contraception. Thanks be to God for all faithful pastors, and for Pastor Roger James particularly on this day.

All glory, honor, thanks and praise be to God for the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary so that He could live, suffer, die and rise again to grant us forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Sermon on the Incarnation, March 25, 2012 
Rev. Roger B. James
Zion Lutheran Church - Marshall, MI

6 minutes and 45 seconds into the sermon, Pastor James continues as follows:
It seems that God goes out of His way to bring trouble on Mary. ...could not God have avoided all of this? Why, for goodness sake, did God not tell Joseph ahead of time? Or, why did God wait until after Mary was discovered pregnant to tell him that the child was of the Holy Spirit? Just think, God could have done it a different way I suppose. They could have gotten married publicly, but refrained from relations, and THEN the Holy Spirit could have come upon Mary, rather than exposing her to ridicule that would necessarily fall upon her. Why, for goodness sake, did God do it this way? Well, perhaps the only answer to that is precisely for GOODNESS sake, for all that God does is good.

However, we today might particularly give thanks that the Heavenly Father DID do it this way, for our NEED is grave. We live in a time in which conception and the life of the unborn is held in contempt. The gift of new human life is set forth as a personal choice, and rarely much more than the personal choice.

Now to be sure we have many personal choices in our lives - some insignificant, some fairly significant. But when we consider another human being to be a personal choice, then we have deviated from the mind of God. It is truly a personal choice, for instance, to carefully consider whether or not I can afford a new car at this time. But, frankly, it is vastly different when considering babies - eternal souls. At least the fact that the Son of God was conceived in the womb suggests that it is different. God became man, the smallest of the small, and by His incarnation He indicates the eternal significance of all people, including the smallest of the small. He proves by his conception that he desires the life of all.


I've been stewing over this question for some time. The question is, "When is it right to prevent life, even the existence of a new eternal soul?"

(Pregnant pause)

Again, "When is it right, or is it ever, to prevent the life of an eternal being created in the image of God who became man - the God who was conceived in the womb?"

Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word."

God grant us the same faith!

How can we possibly find words to express the relief, and gratitude, and wonder, and delight that we have in our Lord Jesus Christ? Just think, with all of the foresight of His Godhead, the Son of God knew exactly what sort of person I would be. All my sins. All my inexcusable failings. Yet He did not prevent my conception in the womb. He did not cut off my life before my skin touched the air. And He did not snuff me out before Holy Baptism washed me. And you can each say much the same."
Sermon continues...


Wolferinus and the defining of the beginning and end of life


I have a further concern with something we have been assuming in the recent discussions about abortifacient birth control. That is, the definition of a point in time at which "contraception" becomes "abortion" - the specific scientific moment in time when new life begins.

I would contend that we only do this because of the acceptance of birth control. Because almost everyone had already declared birth control to be morally acceptable, the nature of the abortion debate caused us to have to make a distinction of when an act of despising God's blessing of children is "contraception" and when such an act is "abortion." The pro-life side of the abortion debate chose "fertilization" as the moment a person is "conceived." I'm not saying I disagree when forced to choose sides, but I've never been very comfortable with defining things in that way. Contraception is wrong. Abortion is wrong. Why do we need to make such a distinction between the two unless it is to ease someone's conscience or decide what type of criminal penalty (or penance) should be applied?

Do we truly know when a new soul's existence begins? Is this not a supernatural divine event that is unobservable? If so, for what reason do we point to the scientifically observable event of "fertilization" as the moment a soul is implicated in the flesh? As far as I know, Scripture does not answer the question of what scientifically observable event signals the exact moment life begins. If any of you believe Scripture does answer this question, I'm all ears. We have an equally difficult time defining the end of life.

I have briefly voiced this concern of mine before in various discussions and writings, but I believe I may have found a very helpful way of looking at this. I would argue that choosing the exact moments or events in time when life begins and ends is no less problematic than choosing the exact moments or events in time when the presence of Christ's body and blood in the bread and wine begin and end in the celebration of the Sacrament.

Please review the following excerpt from Luther's second letter to Simon Wolferinus, July 20, 1543, with which I'm sure most of you are already familiar:

...such a definition of the action would bring about infinite scruples of conscience and endless questions, such as are disputed among the papists, as, for example, whether the Body and Bood of Christ are present at the first, middle, or last syllables. Therefore, one must look not only upon this movement of instant or present action, but also on the time, not in terms of mathematical but of physical breadth, that is, one must give this action a certain period of time, and a period of appropriate breadth of time, as they say, “in breadth.”

Therefore, we shall define the time or the sacramental action in this way: that it starts with the beginning of the Our Father and lasts until all have communicated, have emptied the chalice, have consumed the Hosts, until the people have been dismissed and [the Priest] has left the altar. In this way we shall be safe and free from the scruples and scandals of such endless questions. Dr. Philip defines the sacramental action in relation to what is outside it, that is, against reservation of and processions with the Sacrament; he does not split it up within [the action] itself, nor does he define it in a way that it contradicts itself. ...

You can see where I am going with this, but let me substitute a few words in this text to make my point crystal clear regarding the problems of declaring that life begins at the union of egg and sperm:

...such a definition of the beginning of life would bring about infinite scruples of conscience and endless questions, such as are disputed among those who approve of contraception but oppose abortion, as, for example, whether soul becomes present at fertilization, implantation, or at the moment when the heart begins to beat, or when the brain cells begin showing activity, etc., etc. Therefore, one must look not only upon a movement of instant or present action, but also on the time, not in terms of mathematical but of physical breadth, that is, one must give this action a certain period of time, and a period of appropriate breadth of time, as they say, “in breadth.”

Therefore, we shall define the time of God's action of creating and sustaining life in this way: that it starts with the conjugal union of husband and wife, and lasts through the entire life of the person created through that act, until the person's heart stops beating, all efforts to resuscitate have failed, and until the loved ones have been dismissed from the deathbed. In this way we shall be safe and free from the scruples and scandals of such endless questions. We must define the creation of life in relation to what is outside it, that is, against the separation of any of the purposes of the conjugal union, because Scripture does not split it up these purposes in a way that it contradicts the nature of the whole. What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

This is another reason why I believe the question of what is or is not abortifacient birth control is a much more complicated subject than it ever needed to be. What made me start thinking about this is having written a warning to readers of the list of abortifacient birth control that new drugs are always being invented. Fertilization itself is more a chain of events than a single, isolated phenomenon. What happens when a new drug is invented that doesn't prevent a sperm from uniting with an egg (fertilization), but rather inhibits one of the many subsequent cytological events of zygote formation, such as one of the many observable processes before, during or after nuclear fusion?  How would we decide whether that is an abortifacient drug?

We don't have to answer such questions if we understand that it is not our business to be messing with any of it.  What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

Much more could be said on the subject, but I'll leave that for the comments.


The HHS Birth Control Mandate - a Statement for Study

Here is a statement I have composed for study by my fellow Lutherans.  I welcome your comments.  I hope what I have written makes it clear that this is a much more complicated issue than most of us first thought.  The average Lutheran is totally unprepared to argue and defend any kind of statement about this issue.  In fact, I am not even fully prepared yet to publicly defend my own studied position on the subject.  That is why I am submitting it here for scrutiny from my wise readers.  I do not find this matter of an urgent enough nature that we should be making any statements of a more public nature that we have not fully thought through and that we are not prepared to defend.  I'm not sure it would even be prudent to make a statement about this to the general public once we do reach the point when we are more prepared... but I'll have to address that argument on another day.  So, here you go... pick it apart!

A Statement Regarding the
HHS Birth Control Mandate and Religious Liberty

The recent decision of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandates that nearly all private health plans, including those of religious employers, must provide all prescribed birth control drugs and devices for women free of charge.
"Freedom of religion" extends beyond worship in churches.  We cannot force our religious beliefs on others, but neither should the government expect us to act contrary to our religious beliefs.  Jesus bids us, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's’ (Mark 12:17). We are to pray for and support our government wherever and whenever we can, but our consciences and lives belong to God.
While Christians are called to obey political authorities (Romans 13:1-7), when human authority violates God’s will, Christians are bound to “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:28-29).  The Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms does not promote quietism, but affirms that civil government is to be concerned with things other than the gospel and should not exercise its authority in the church (CA XXVIII.11-12), and commands the Christian to use political laws and public redress for the benefit of temporal life (Ap XVI).
It is important, however, to remember as Christians that God does not guarantee us religious freedom in this broken world.  In fact, it has been a common "alien work" of God throughout history to allow religious persecution to draw us closer to Him.  Christianity has often flourished the most during times when the Church has faced her greatest persecutions.  
Our consciences belong to God and cannot be taken captive.  They can jail us and even kill us, but they cannot take Christ from us or force us to act against our consciences.  
Few people realize that this mandate is not about "contraception."  This government mandate requires that nearly all private health plans, including those of religious employers, must provide all prescribed birth control drugs and devices for women free of charge.  What most people do not know is that all of these currently available prescribed birth control drugs and devices for women can act in a way that causes the death of the unborn through silent abortions.  
So, how can the government claim that abortion-causing drugs are not included in this mandate?  Many people define "conception" as implantation rather than fertilization, since "pregnancy" is commonly identified as the point in time when a test detects the hormones which signal implantation. [1]
However, even providing non-abortifacient "contraception" would still violate the consciences of religious people of many faiths. This includes not only Roman Catholics, but many other Christians who retain the teaching that all churches shared until just a few decades ago, that preventing conception violates the divine ordinance to "be fruitful and multiply."  At least until 1959, the majority of LCMS pastors and seminary professors did not deviate from this teaching that it is a faithless act to refuse the blessing of a child. [2] 
To understand that obeying this mandate also would violate the religious consciences of those who have no objection to contraception, it is important to first understand the distinction between "contraception" and "birth control."  "Contra-ception" works "against conception."  According to this proper definition, contraception only prevents the union of an egg and a sperm.  This process is known scientifically as "fertilization". [1] "Birth control" includes methods that not only work as contraceptives, but which can also cause the death of a conceived human being.  Many methods of "birth control" are, therefore, improperly referred to by the general public and many doctors as "contraception."  
This distinction makes it clear that, contrary to the language used in the government mandate, this is not simply about religious employers being forced to provide free "contraception" - although that would still violate the religious freedom of many people.  The broader concern to all religious persons who are pro-life is the fact that ALL of the currently available prescribed birth control drugs and devices for women are also abortifacient.  In other words they all can also act by causing the death of the unborn through a backup mechanism which causes a silent abortion. [3]
Many people are unaware that birth control pills, injections, implants, and IUDs do not only work to prevent conception.  As a backup mechanism, all of these methods can also work after conception to prevent the implantation of an embryo, causing a "silent abortion."  One of the newest drugs called "Ella" can also destroy the placenta of a developing fetus in the womb, like the "abortion pill" ru486.
Do not let the language fool you.  These methods are not just "contraceptive."  A general rule of thumb to help you remember is that all "contraception" (birth control) drugs and IUDs are actually abortifacient methods of birth control.
  If we were to use terms with their literal meanings, contraception = prevention of life before it is conceived, and birth control = the taking of life before birth. Unfortunately, people have come to use these terms interchangeably.  
Here we are using the terms in their literal sense.  But don't let the language of the mandate or the common language used in the media fool you.  This mandate expects religious employers to provide all prescribed birth control drugs and devices for women - all of which can cause abortion.
Pro-life Christians who confess that life begins at conception are, therefore, also compelled to confess that these drugs and procedures violate the commandment of God: "You shall not murder."
Oppose this government mandate and urge all who value religious freedom to contact their elected representatives to urge them to reverse this government action.  Treasure the freedom to put our faith into action in the public square while we still have it and, in response to Christ’s call, demonstrate His mercy through our love and compassion for all people.  And show this love and compassion for the unborn by not being afraid to speak up about the abortifacient nature of all the currently available prescribed birth control drugs and devices for women.  Pray for your government representatives and leaders, for doctors and pastors, for your friends and enemies, and for the unborn.
Most of all, remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.   They can jail us and even kill us, but our consciences will always remain free as we continue to profess before the world the joyful good news that Jesus Christ, True God and True Man, conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, suffered and died on the cross and rose again from the dead on the third day, so that all, believing in Him have forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.  
[1]  Read  Semantics Don’t Change Truth: The social motivations behind new definitions.
[2]  See Genesis 1:28 and 38:9-10, etc..  To learn more about the history and reasons behind this recent change in belief, read Godly Seed - a book published late last year by prominent historian Dr. Allan Carlson; and Birth Control and the Lutherans: The Missouri Synod as a Case Study by Alan Graebner in the Journal of Social History Vol. 2, No. 4 (Summer, 1969), pp. 303-332; and further resources available at the Lutherans and Procreation blog.
There are also many Lutherans who still haven't ever deviated from this teaching, and a growing number of Lutherans from the LCMS, ELS, and WELS returning to this historic teaching. There is a group of almost two-hundred like-minded Lutherans, mostly pastors and their wives, who support each other on a discussion group called "Quiverfull Lutherans."  If you agree and would like to be a part of that group, please contact ehtoothdoctorgmailcom.
[3]  This includes all birth control drugs (preparations commonly known as "the Pill", hormone patches, implants, and injections, and so-called "morning after pills" (such as Plan B and Ella), and all intrauterine devices (copper and hormone IUDs).  Below is a list of currently prescribed birth control drugs and devices for women and the FDA mandated product information statements which clearly point out their abortifacient nature.  We are in the process of updating this to include all the newest formulations, and I will post a new version when we have completed the update.  Keep in mind that drug companies are still coming up with new drugs and devices.  If the formulations are similar to the ones on this list, the same statements apply.  If they are entirely new drugs or devices, read the package insert and/or diligently research the modes of action before ever using them.

(Nota Bene: A few of the phrases above are borrowed from writings on this subject by Pastor Gifford Grobien, Pastor Roger James, and President Matthew Harrison.  Most of the writing is my own, but it became quite difficult with all the writing and editing I've done on this and other statements on the issue to remember exactly what pieces of the puzzle came from where.  It would also be very cumbersome to have footnotes for such citations all over the place, adding to the confusion of the whole issue.  I know Pr. Grobien doesn't mind, and I don't expect President Harrison or my own pastor will either.  I know we're all simply interested in the truth getting out on all this, so everyone else please feel free to borrow whatever you like from what I have written as well. No attributions necessary.)

Abortifacient Effects of Chemical, Hormonal, and IUD Birth Control Products According to FDA Labeling  
Compiled by Ryan C. MacPherson, PhD, July 2008 from:
Physicians' Desk Reference, 62nd ed. (Montvale, NJ: Thompson Healthcare, 2007),
a standard compilation of the FDA-required labels for over 4,000 approved drugs. 
Partially updated by Erich J. Heidenreich, DDS on March 21, 2012

Combination Oral Contraception (COC) Pills [also known as “Oral Contraception Pills” (OCP), all of which are commonly referred to as “The Pill”]
“Combination oral contraceptives act by suppression of gonadotropins. Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entering into the uterus) and the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation)” (repeated at pp. 777 [Yasmin], 785 [Yaz], 1046 [Mircette], 1057 [Seasonique], 2402 [Ortho Cyclen and Ortho Tri-Cyclen], 2411 [Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo], and 3367 [Lybrel]).

Brand Name (Manufacturer),  Progestational Component,  Estrogenic Component
Ortho Cyclen (Ortho), 0.250 mg norgestimate, 0.035 mg ethinyl estradiol
Ortho Tri-Cyclen (Ortho), 0.18 mg norgestimate, 0.035 mg ethinyl estradiol
Ortho Tri-Cyclen Lo (Ortho), 0.180 mg norgestimate, 0.025 mg ethinyl estradiol
Lybrel (Wyeth), 90 mcg levonorgestrel, 20 mcg ethinyl estradiol
Mircette (Duramed), 0.15 mg desogestrel x 20, 0.02 mg ethinyl estradiol x 20, 0.01 mg ethinyl estradiol x 5
Seasonique (Duramed), 0.15 mg levonorgestrel, 0.03 mg ethinyl estradiol
Yaz (Bayer), 3 mg drospirenone, 0.020 mg ethinyl estradiol
Yazmin (Bayer), 3 mg drospirenone x 21, 0.030 mg ethinyl estradiol x 21

Combination Patch
“Although the primary mechanism of this action is inhibition of ovulation, other alterations include changes in the cervical mucus (which increase the difficulty of sperm entering into the uterus) and the endometrium (which reduce the likelihood of implantation)” (p. 2390).
Ortho Evra (Ortho), 6.00 mg norelgestromin, 0.75 mg ethinyl estradiol
Progestin-Only Pills (POP) (also known as the “mini-pill”)
“Ortho Micronor® progestin-only contraception prevents conception by suppressing ovulation in approximately half of users, thickening the cervical mucus to inhibit sperm penetration, lowering the midcycle LH and FSH peaks, slowing the movement of the ovum through the fallopian tube, and altering the endometrium” (p. 2399). The “failure rate” (i.e., on-pill sustained pregnancy rate) is 0.5% in perfect use vs. “close to 5%” in typical use (p. 2399). Of these pregnancies, “up to 10%” are ectopic (p. 2400).
Ortho Micronor (Ortho) 0.35 mg norethidrone
Emergency Contraception Pills (ECP)
“Plan B® is believed to act as an emergency contraceptive principally by preventing ovulation or fertilization (by altering tubal transport of sperm and/or ova). In addition, it may inhibit implantation (by altering the endometrium). It is not effective once the process of implantation has begun” (p. 1056).
“When taken immediately before ovulation is to occur, Ella postpones follicular rupture. The likely primary mechanism of action of ulipristal acetate for emergency contraception is therefore inhibition or delay of ovulation; however, alterations to the endometrium that may affect implantation may also contribute to efficacy.” (08/2010 FDA approved labeling)
Brand Name (Manufacturer), Progestational Component       
Plan B One Step (Duramed), 0.75 mg levonorgestrel
Next Choice, 0.75 mg levonorgestrel

Brand Name (Manufacturer), Progesterone agonist/antagonist
Ella (Watson Pharma), 30 mg ulipristal acetate
Note:  Ella, Plan B One-Step, Next Choice and generic Levonorgestrel Tablets are the only dedicated product specifically marketed for emergency contraception.  However, Aviane, Cryselle, Enpresse, Jolessa, Lessina, Levora, Lo/Ovral, LoSeasonique, Low-Ogestrel, Lutera, Lybrel, Nordette, Ogestrel, Portia, Quasense, Seasonale, Seasonique, Sronyx and Trivora have been declared safe and effective for use as ECPs by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Plan B One-Step and Next Choice are available over-the counter to women and men aged 17 and older. You can buy these pills by prescription if you are younger. Ella is available by prescription only.
Note: Important information on the deadly effects of “Ella” on the placenta of a developing fetus: http://www.frcblog.com/tag/donna-harrison/
Donna Harrison, MD, is a member of Emmaus Lutheran Church (LCMS) in South Bend, Indiana. She is an OB-GYN and the current president of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians.  Read her scientific remarks at the FDA hearing on Ella here:  http://www.frcblog.com/2010/06/3487/
Progestin-Only Injections
“Depo Provera … inhibits the secretion of gonadotropins, which prevents follicular maturation and ovulation and causes endometrial thinning. These actions produce its contraceptive effect” (p. 2612).
Depo Provera (Pharmacia; Upjohn), 104 mg/0.65mL medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA)
Intrauterine Devices (IUD)
“The contraceptive effectiveness of ParaGard is enhanced by copper continuously released into the uterine cavity. Possible mechanism(s) by which copper enhances contraceptive efficacy include interference with sperm transport or fertilization, and prevention of implantation” (p. 1052).
“The local mechanism by which continuously released levonorgestrel enhances contraceptive effectiveness has not been conclusively demonstrated. Studies of MIRENA prototypes have suggested several mechanisms that prevent pregnancy [i.e., prevent “clinical pregnancy,” which is not said to be established until implantation in the uterus]: thickening of cervical mucus preventing passage of sperm into the uterus, inhibition of sperm capacitation or survival, and alteration of the endometrium. … MIRENA has mainly local progestogenic effects in the uterine cavity. Morphological changes of the endometrium are observed, including stromal pseudodecidualization [endometrial thinning], glandular atrophy, a leucocytic infiltration and a decrease in glandular and stromal mitosis” (p. 765).
ParaGard Copper T380A IUD, 176 mg copper wire coiled around a polyethylene T-frame
Mirena IUD (Bayer), levonorgestrel (progestational component), released at 20 mcg/day from a polyethylene T-frame



The HHS Birth Control Mandate

I have done a great deal more study of this and my position has evolved further. I could bore you for hours with all the things I have learned, so I will try to hit the high points and be as brief as possible.

First, here is the rational of the Department of Health and Human Services regarding the birth control mandate:
Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families, is documented to significantly reduce health costs, and is the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women. This rule will provide women with greater access to contraception by requiring coverage and by prohibiting cost sharing.
This decision was made after very careful consideration, including the important concerns some have raised about religious liberty. I believe this proposal strikes the appropriate balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services. The administration remains fully committed to its partnerships with faith-based organizations, which promote healthy communities and serve the common good. And this final rule will have no impact on the protections that existing conscience laws and regulations give to health care providers.
It is perceived not just by our government but by the current culture (and unfortunately many Lutherans) that birth control is a matter of "healthcare" that all women have a right to equal access. It is easy to see from the the government's perspective that they are simply protecting the rights the majority of Americans believe in. We as a church have contributed to this mistaken perspective. Even Rev. Harrison's February 14 letter refers to birth control as "medicine." Medicine is by definition "a compound or preparation used for the treatment or prevention of disease." If we refer to birth control as "medicine" then we are contributing to the assumption that it is of benefit to women's health.

It's hard to believe, but this is the world we live in, and the government we live under. Conservative efforts to overturn this mandate have already failed in the senate. I do not believe we have any realistic hope of reversing the trend of government limiting our religious liberties.

I was interested to read that a new Public Religion Research Institute poll released March 15—which was done in partnership with Religion News Service—found that a 56 percent of Americans do not believe that the right of religious liberty is being threatened in America today. Even worse, 57 percent of Catholics and 58 percent of independents polled specifically do not view this mandate as an infringement on religious liberty. I do not see how making more people aware of this mandate and telling them that we feel it is an intrusion on religious liberty is going to change public opinion. The only realistic effort to reverse this ruling has already failed in the senate. Nothing is going to change the current status of this issue, at least not before the next political election. However, if more people were made aware of the abortifacient nature of all these methods of birth control, perhaps at least those who are pro-life might change their minds about this mandate, not to mention changing their minds about their own use of these horrible drugs and devices.

In addition, most of our members do not understand the source and nature of religious liberty. Religious liberty is not something granted by the First Amendment. The Bill of Rights limited the powers of Congress, but not the states. States still had the right to establish religion well into the 1800s. Religious freedom has its proper locus in the inalienable rights spoken of in the Declaration of Independence, and in the writings of the founding fathers on the subject. While courts have come to define religious liberty according to the First Amendment through a misapplication of the Fourteenth Amendment, this is not the proper locus. In fact, it is not Congress, but rather the executive branch that has created this mandate. This opens a whole new discussion of the nature of religious freedom and the HHS mandate, not to mention its support in current federal judicial precedence.

Most people also do not understand that Christianity should not benefit from any "favored status" and that religious freedom has always been limited. These limits have been defined in various ways since the founding of our nation. The proper limits on religious liberty are why polygamy and Sharia law are still ruled illegal. Just as one does not have the freedom of speech to falsely yell "fire" in a crowded theater, religious rights end where the government perceives the public good is endangered.

This is why the root problem as I see it is that birth control is considered "medicine" that is an important part of women's "healthcare." I believe this belief is shared even by the majority of Lutherans. As such, it can be argued that the right to this supposed public good trumps religious liberty. In fact, the only thing the majority of Lutherans seem to be against is a couple methods they wrongly perceive are the only abortifacient drugs covered by this mandate. When people approve of all other hormonal birth control drugs, implants, injections, and IUDs, they are being hypocritical to point the finger at the government and at women who use post-coital birth control. As I hope I have made abundantly clear on this blog many times before, all prescribed birth control drugs and devices are abortifacient. Granted, most people are unaware of these facts and, therefore, their hypocrisy is unintentional. However, I would argue that the church and her members should take the log out of their own eye first before they can see clearly to criticize the government for this action.

I would argue that when Christians broke with the historic Biblical teaching against contraception and subsequently came to approve of birth control drugs and devices as "medicines" and "healthcare" for woman, they effectively lost the right to oppose any of these prescribed birth control methods for religious reasons.

C.P. Krauth taught that error first seeks tolerance, then it seeks equality, then it seeks dominance. Tolerance of birth control by Christians began with Anglicans in 1930 approving of birth control in very limited circumstances. By 1959, this included Lutherans, and now those who approve of birth control include even the majority of Roman Catholic laity. It took less than a century for tolerance in the church to lead to the dominance of a contraceptive mentality which inevitably gave birth to the right to abortion in our culture.

So, here is my current position on this question of publishing any statement on the HHS mandate. Before we as individuals or as congregations make any public statements about this, we need to further educate ourselves about religious liberty and both its proper and its current legal limitations. We need to better understand the "Two Kingdoms" and other theological issues. We all need to understand that, even in the absence of religious freedom, no one can ever force us to violate our conscience.

God's providence does not guarantee religious freedom. In fact, it has been a common "alien work" of God throughout history to allow persecution in order to bring us closer to God. Christianity has often flourished the most during times when the Church has faced her greatest persecutions. Our consciences belong to God and cannot be taken captive. They can jail us and even kill us, but they cannot take Christ from us or force us to act against our conscience.

I would also argue that, before making further comments in the public square, we also first need to clean our own house with regard to the horrible mistakes on the question of birth control that have been made by our synod, our church, and most of her members. Such errors and misconceptions have contributed greatly to our current predicament, as explained above. This will require the application of a great deal of patient, compassionate, and pastoral teaching on the scientific and theological issues surrounding birth control - information that will inevitably weigh heavily on the consciences of many members.

How much easier it would be if all Christians had retained the belief that contraception is worse than murder, and that it's not our business to interfere with God's creative work at any point in the process.  Onan practiced contraception and was killed by God himself.  St. John Chrysostom admits the inability to even describe from a biblical standpoint what contraception is:
"Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives].... Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. [Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 24 [A.D. 391]
Lord have mercy,




One of my nieces, Evangelina, is third born to my sister and she has special needs. My sister and her husband knew while carrying her that this was the case. They are Christians. My sister has given birth to another niece of mine, Lisette, after having Lina..  Again, my sister and brother in law are Christians.  Thus far they have four girls.  I'm praying for more grandchildren for my mother; she has twelve so far from her three kids (four a piece).

 Now read the link and see the wickedness that resides in the hearts of men.  

It seems to me that both now and in the future, except for rare instances, the only children to be born with Down Syndrome (and many other maladies) will be born to Christians.  The rest will be killed.

Oh, and by the way, after you read the article, know that none of my kids like brushing their teeth and none of them have Down Syndrome.