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Just how “Pro-life” are you?

By April 6, 200914 Comments

Abortion ProtestersConservative Christian=Hardcore pro-life advocate.

Over the past several decades, that is how the world has come to define us. And for good reason–the pro-life movement has been one of the definitive issues of evangelicalism. If you’re a conservative Christian, then you are a staunch believer in the pro-life movement, so much so that many Christians have become “one issue” voters–if your candidate is pro-life, then nothing else matters. Vote for them.

This is where we find ourselves today. You’re either pro-life or pro-choice. And in the ears of many evangelicals, that means you’re either a good Christian or a bad Christian.

However, I’m starting to wonder if the pro-lifers are really as devoted as they claim to be.

My doubt began to emerge in the last couple months after my fiancé and I decided to practice the natural family planning method of birth control. Considering numerous factors, such as the possibility that hormonal birth control methods like the pill can cause unintended abortions in early pregnancies, we prayed about it and felt this was the best path for us to take.

I’ll save that blog topic for another day, but what I want to highlight right now is the reactions we’ve received upon telling our Christian friends that we are practicing this method. It’s ranged from anything like, “What the heck is that?” to “Does that mean there are times each month when you won’t be able to have sex??” (horror of horrors)

But perhaps the one response that I’ve heard more than any other is,”What if you get pregnant??”

Initially, I found myself getting defensive about the method and entering into a kind of debate. I would explain how scientific it is, and how I know many people who have practiced the method without getting pregnant until they planned to, and how no method is fool-proof.

But one day, after hearing this reaction for the 100th time and entering into yet another debate about its effectiveness in preventing pregnancy, I stopped myself and asked, “Wait a second, is getting pregnant really all that bad?”

And therein lies the rub–the mindset behind that question, AND my response, seems to overlook two very important things:

1. Babies are good.
2. God created marriage to lead to families.

That said, it struck me as somewhat odd that Christians would be so scandalized by the idea that a married couple would get pregnant. Aside from the fact that we pro-lifers should be valuing life WHENEVER it comes, marriage is God’s ideal plan for raising children. Having babies within marriage is a good thing!

Now it IS important to be responsible and strive to provide for your child to the best of your ability, but we also have to trust that God will take care of us in the face of an unexpected pregnancy, and that’s not a language I hear amidst Christians circles very often.

If God created sex and marriage to result in children, then He’s going to be faithful to His plan. Getting pregnant before you own a home and have a solid salary isn’t going to throw God for a loop. He created marriage SO THAT the child will be provided for, which means the child isn’t going to undermine marriage’s created design. The child is PART OF marriage’s design.

But here’s the real problem: If we respond to the birth of children in a kind of worst-case-scenario manner, if having a child in the first year of marriage is such a scandal, we cannot sit back in shock and judgment when the rest of the world does the same. We are operating off of the same mindset, just in different ways. Maybe we don’t believe in abortion, but we are still placing different values on life, depending on when it comes.

That mindset is the heart of the pro-choice movement.

Again, I am not advocating that everyone has to practice the natural family planning method, nor do I believe we should churn out children like rabbits–there is a degree to which we should be discerning and prayerful about how many children we should have. BUT, that decision should be guided by a trust in God, not in a fear of limited financial resources, or even limited freedom.

That language should also serve as a framework for the way in which we talk about pregnancy.

Ike and I may get pregnant within our first of year of marriage. We may not. But whatever happens we will certainly consider our first child a gift from God, whenever he or she comes. And not simply because that child will belong to us, but because we are disciples of Christ, and that’s what it means to unconditionally affirm the goodness of that divine image bearer that God once named “Man.”


  • Mrs. F says:

    My husband and I have been married 4 months. We are using the pill, but he’s catholic and we heard a lot about NFP in pre-marital classes. We decided the pill was right for us, but thru a series of circumstances (including a show on sex appeal on Oprah) I recently started to pray about NFP, considering that the pill might not be right for me for a variety of reasons. In short, what resources have you both found helpful in your research of NFP? Did you attend a training anywhere? If you would prefer, you can respond via email.
    Thanks! 🙂

  • Sharon says:

    Ike and I are taking a class, which we have really loved because it not only explains the method itself, but teaches the theology behind it, and the ways that it can enhance your marriage and sex life. It’s already been a tremendous blessing to us because it has shaped the way we see one another and treat one another in Christ-centered ways, so I highly recommend it!

    The following link will take you to a site where you can search for classes in your area:

  • Heather says:

    I just wanted to add that I found “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Toni Weschler to be very helpful in learning NFP. She does not write from a Christian perspective, but she does an excellent job explaining the method and answering questions that many have when starting out. Thank you Sharon, for addressing this often overlooked pro-life issue.

  • Miss Engaged says:

    I will be interested in reading your full post about NFP and your choice to practice that. I have been researching and praying a lot about this choice. I would specifically be interested in knowing why you chose NFP over the “Fertility Awareness Method”

  • Russ Woodbridge says:

    Excellent post. You are right on. How many couples delay having children under the guise of need a house, money, etc. Could that be a disguise for selfishness?

    Two more thoughts:

    1. According to the Bible children are a blessing from God but this is one blessing that most Christians do not ask for more of.

    2. To add to your point that Christians pro-life stance is at odds with practice, think about how many couples never tell anyone they are pregnant until the 10-12th week. Why? If we believe that life begins at conception, then the baby is legit then; not after passing the 10th week, the most likely time for a miscarriage.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Sharon says:

    Miss Engaged–To be honest, I was not familiar with the Fertility Awareness Method. I chose the NFP route because I had several friends who did it, and they highly recommended it.

    However, after looking at information about it, I get the impression that FAM isn’t as theologically driven as NFP. NFP is taught in local churches and is founded upon Biblical teaching, so you aren’t simply learning the method but deepening your spiritual life in the process.

    I hope that’s helpful!

  • emma says:

    The Fertility Awareness Method is a good tool, even if not “theologically driven” it explains a lot of the technical aspects that most women never know about their bodies.

    There is a whole communtiy of FAM friends online who are very spiritually rooted. When we were trying to get pregnant I turned to the online support group while practicing FAM and I still managed to deepen my faith while dealing with an infertile womb. (which is a whole diferent story)

    I think FAM is a great tool to use “as well as” or “in lieu of” or not at all. It’s just another option.

    I would like to here your thoughts on including adoption as another way to grow a family. Adopting before you try to conceive bioloically. So many women I speak to think they have to “have the kid first” before adopting, which they then never even consider.

    It’s a question to ponder ESPECIALLY given your post on just how Pro-Life are you?

    Always enjoy reading your blog.

  • emma says:

    I apologize for my grammar and spelling errors! Long day!!!

  • Shaun Gidcumb says:

    I think you make some excellent points about how we view children in relation to marriage, and I agree that we should view children as a blessing whenever they come.

    I think that you may have overlooked a very important possible reason for the negative reactions regarding your method of family planning, which may have to do with the reasoning behind your choice. The fact is that the majority of people (including the medical community) do not share your opinion that hormonal birth control can cause unintended abortions. I am not bringing this up to try and argue this view, but to state where most of the people you are talking to are coming from.

    If you were not to mention your belief that hormonal birth control can possibly lead to abortions would you receive the same responses? I’m not sure that you would.

    While I believe it is not your intent, people more than likely will feel that you are judging them by saying that their method of birth control may cause abortions. After hearing this they will become defensive, and will try and prove that you are wrong in everything you are saying on the subject including your choice of family planning.

    Just something to think about, but it doesn’t change the fact that we really need to change how we view God’s blessing in the form of children.

  • David Goodman says:

    I am a little disappointed that it seems you may have missed the point Sharon was trying to make. What is at stake is not so much the issue of whether or not hormonal birth control methods cause abortions or not. There is much more of a battle for our hearts and minds as we continue to live in a world that values children, and parenting less and less.

    Since you brought it up, I would disagree with your statement that majority of the medical community does not believe that birth control can cause unintended abortions. The FACT is that they know that it can, but chose not to take that into consideration for a variety of reasons, some good, some bad.

    The fact is that just about every person in the medical community should know that hormonal contraception works by three mechanisms of action:
    1. Inhibiting ovulation (primarily)
    2. Thickening cervical mucous to act as barrier
    3. Decreasing development of the endometrium, limiting it to ~ 1mm in size when 5-13mm is necessary for successful implantation.

    The consensus amongst the “medical community” is that option 3 is rarely the mechanism of action which actually prevents pregnancy and they consider it be an acceptable consequence of achieving the goal of blocking ovulation. It is taught as and often described as a theoretical possibility rather than a major concern.

    Factually speaking women taking OCPs perfectly will get pregnant less than 1% per year. For women who may miss days, have altered metabolism, ect and are less than perfect may get pregnant 3-8% per year. Logically speaking if a person talking the medication perfectly gets pregnant sometimes, that means it is possible for mechanisms 1 and 2 to fail at times, meaning that 3 must occur sometimes.

    Not to belabor this off topic discussion, but just wanted to set the record straight

  • Veronica Greear says:

    Oh my goodness, I love this post. As one who has had her mind turned upside down on this topic herself, I am so grateful for your so well articulated thoughts! I often find myself trying to teach young couples that when they sign on for marriage, they are signing on for AT LEAST the possibility of children in the next 9 months, and if that is horrifying to them they need to do some soul examining! Until about 50 years ago everyone understood that to be married was to be soon having children. Of course nowadays people pity one who has a child within a year or two of getting married. It is so sad how we have degraded the value of small souls! Now I do not have 13 kids, I too think there is a responsibility to prayerfully seek God on how many children we ought to have, but surely the attitude of our society today towards children is wrong! Thanks again Sharon!

  • Julie says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I am a nurse, and my husband and I too, have decided to forego medicinal birth control. We too prayed about this and decided 2 things: 1) If we were not prepared for the possiblity of children, than entering into a sexual relationship, aka marriage, was irresponsible and we might need to wait to get married until we were ready. This obviously doesn’t mean we were or are “trying” to get pregnant, but it does mean we refuse to look at pregnancy as some sort of “unlucky surprise,” for your above stated reason of lessening the value of “unplanned life” over that which is planned. 2) If we were going to call ourselves pro-life, with abortion being a very important issue to both of us, we did not want to take a chance of using a method of birth control that we do not understand fully and that, no matter what your OB/GYN says, is not fully understood in the medical world. Because it isn’t completely clear how these medications work in early pregnancy (sometimes preventing fertilization, sometimes preventing implantation, etc…) we felt it most consistent to just do NFP as well. Once again though, I have been incredibly surprised how some other “pro-life Christians” have received this, calling it “a bit radical.” I hope many more Christian women’s eyes would be open to this “alternative” method of birth control and this “alternative” view on pregnancy.

  • “Maybe we don’t believe in abortion, but we are still placing different values on life, depending on when it comes.”

    That is soooooo good! My husband and I are just starting NFP (after being on The Pill for the first 6-months of our marriage) and are amused/saddened at people’s reaction of “What if you get pregnant?!” To which we answer with something like, “Well, that’s not the goal or reason why we are using NFP, but if we do get pregnant then that’s GREAT!” Goodness grief people – it’s a BABY. Yes, a change and a challenge, but a blessing, and like you said in another post – made in the image of God. It is so sad to me that so many of my young married friends view a unexpected pregnancy as such a bad thing.

    Great post – thank you!

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