.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]