Yesterday, I shared a brief satirical post on the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Hobby Lobby. As someone who considers myself adamantly “pro-life” (note the quotations) this is a topic that has dominated my thoughts over the past week.
When considering this debate beyond the initial decision and mudslinging between so-called “liberals” and “conservatives” over this issue, there is one poignant reality we can all agree upon: sexual ethics, the way we regard (or disregard) sex, life and the sanctity of both, matter. With the clouds of an increasingly turbulent political scene that is constantly featuring sexual issues on our horizons, the core of these debates demand the thoughtful attention of Christians.
Inasmuch, there are some very pertinent questions Christians must all be asking ourselves regarding this topic. Here, briefly, are the three of the most prominent:
1) Are we really pro-life?
The irony of the “pro-life” movement is that all too frequently we are found to be one-sided in our defense of “life”. For example, numerous people praise former-President George W. Bush for his “pro-life” agendas without showing any serious concern for the fact that he signed more death warrants in his time as Governor of Texas than any contemporary elected official.
Are we “pro-life” if the life is that of a convicted (though sometimes innocent) felon?
Even more concerning is the fact that though many of us claim to be “pro-life” we are also quick to defend our affinity for the military and the “necessity” of war. We may justify these affinities with theories of self-defense and notions of “justified” conflict, but isn’t this logic akin to what we utilized by our pro-choice counterparts in justifying abortion and birth control?
If then we truly wish to be “pro-life” this stance must, imperatively, stretch beyond the discussion on birth control and abortion. Pro-life advocates must be at the forefront of advocacy for social justice, ought to lose sleep over the civilian death count in recent American “defense” campaigns and ought to advocate for the life of every child. Otherwise we are simply being self-righteous in assigning ourselves the “pro-life” label. Otherwise we are really, as Benjamin Corey put it, just “pro-birth”.
Which begs the question:
2) If we object to one form of birth control, should we object to all of them?
Fact: birth control reduces unwanted pregnancies. And this is a good thing, ya?
“Right,” we say, “but if it reduces them by aborting them, then it is a morally fallible option.”
But here we find the truly murky waters of this topic: the two types of birth control at the center of this debate are the IUD and Plan B birth control pills. Both of these forms of birth control act primarily as a means of preventing fertilization, which is the same goal of condoms, natural birth control and a majority of hormonally based pills.
Now, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists medical statement regarding Plan B birth control “studies indicate that emergency contraception confers no increased risk to an established pregnancy or harm to a developing embryo.”
So according to ACOG these forms of birth control play the exact same role as other accepted forms. But, the problem here enlies in the definition. Because the ACOG’s definition assumes that for pregnancy to “begin” the fertilized egg must attach itself to the wall of the uterus. Both of the disputed forms of birth control also can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the wall of the uterus. If we believe that life begins at conception then any action that intentionally prevents or contributes to the demise of a fertilized egg constitutes a form of abortion.
The other proposition can be made that the failure of a fertilized egg to implant itself on the wall of the uterus can happen naturally. Thus, it can be argued, that this process is something that occurs just as much naturally as when a woman is utilizing the Plan B or the IUD (in fact, some statistics point to it occurring more naturally than when using these forms of BC). Thus, since it is a natural process, can it really be considered abortive?
Well yes, yes it can.
Because miscarriages also occur naturally. Stillbirths also occur naturally. But should a child be killed right after being born no one would justify it by saying “oh, it’s okay- the same thing could have happened naturally.”
So we arrive at the notion that these forms of birth control are really an attempt to play God: ensuring the avoidance of an unwanted pregnancy by (potentially) causing the failure of a fertilized egg to implant, even though this might have occurred naturally.
But, if that is the stance we choose to take then we really are required to ask ourselves: what form of birth control isn’t playing God? All forms of birth control accepted within the Christian community prevent fertilization, which could or could not happen naturally, so are all of them playing God?
Logically, it is difficult to justify viewing Plan B and IUD utilization as “playing God” while on the same time affirming that sticking a condom on oneself isn’t the same offense. If I’m going to deny the ethical use of one form, it seems compelling to deny all of them.
So if we are against certain forms of birth control, how much of that is fueled by our own pragmatic necessity rather than consistent logically induced ethics?
3) Should Our Religion Be Legislated?
Within this debate there’s been an incredible amount of uproar from mainstream Christians about protecting our religious freedom. Ironically, protection of our religious freedom has been, in cases such as these, equated to legislating it. Would we be as concerned with protecting religious freedom if it was a Muslim population advocating the right to only serve female customers who’s heads are covered?
The Hobby Lobby birth control issue is, by far, not the only time we’ve advocated for “religious freedom” as it relates specifically to our religious freedom: the foundation of the objection to legislating gay marriage is a moral objection, built off of (many religions but mostly) Christian beliefs. But as with the homosexuality debate, what Christians are discovering is that our efforts to ensure our own religious freedom have painted us in a poor light and our religion in a worse one.
Previous to Monday’s ruling, companies who refused to oblige by the laws regarding health insurance would have, instead, been forced to pay a fine. Would simply paying the fine have been more Christ-like? Would it be a greater testimony to the Christian faith if we stopped fighting legislation and accepted what persecution that may follow?
While I never want to pay for an abortion, I also don’t want to pay for war, capitol punishment, and nuclear research programs. But I do. It’s called taxes. Should I start lobbying for lawsuits against the government on all these disputes too?
I have to wonder if we, as Christians, are we fighting the right battles by concentrating our efforts on adapting legislation to acquiesce our spiritual beliefs. The insistence by Christian political lobbyists to die upon these mountains of morality frustrates more than those with opposing beliefs; it compromises the very role of the church.
Is it worth it?
Some argue yes: it’s a moral obligation, a matter of allegiance to Christ. Many of us, however are weary of the slippery slope that comes from blending the Church’s mission with the state’s legislation.
All of us, however, must ask the question.
This discussion isn’t going away anytime soon. And, contrary to what some might have you believe, debates like these are not always black and white with our own positions standing firmly and undoubtedly on the “correct” side. I find no Biblical justification for abortion, but at the same time I don’t see legislative battles as the correct way of making this known. It doesn’t help our case that we have shown, and continue to show, incredible lack of consistency in our sexual ethics. These inconsistencies within our own walls require more urgency than any legislative actions of a single government.
If we’re going to be worshipers of Christ and claim an attitude that seeks to glorify God, if we’re going to promote the dignity of all human life, hold a consistent and sincere ethical outlook and continue the mission of His church, then these are some questions we really need to consider moving forward.