Abortion has always been a hot topic, and the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling in June fanned the flames. While some people crowed in triumph, others raged in disbelief and betrayal.
What became confusing was how little we actually discussed abortion. More often the topics were misogyny, gun rights, poverty, political strategy, being woke, specific politicians, our health system and comparisons to slavery.
At some point, it occurred to me that everyone agreed on one thing: No one wants abortion. There has never been a woman who became pregnant in order that she could then have an abortion later. Abortions happen because a woman is carrying a life she doesn’t want or isn’t able to care for, or both.
It seems to me that the goal is not to stack the court with conservative judges, defend constitutional rights, build pregnancy centers or even foster and adopt more children. The goal is to stop unwanted pregnancy.
So why, in heaven’s name, are we not discussing birth control?
In 2003, Mennonite Church USA wrote a “Statement on Abortion,” which says nothing about birth control and averting unwanted pregnancy.
Glen Guyton, executive director of MC USA, issued a challenge to the church in an essay written after the Supreme Court’s recent ruling:
“Standing on the sidelines is no -longer an option for the church. We must put our faith into action. We must get involved now.”
Guyton listed multiple action steps that spoke to meeting needs once a child is conceived or born, but nothing specific about avoiding pregnancy in the first place.
I find this same messaging across the Christian world. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why does the church still avoid conversations about birth control? Both liberal and conservative denominations have given their blessing to birth control, and almost all families use it at some point. What is the hold-up?
Birth control’s most basic function is to give women (and men) the ability to choose when their bodies create life. This feels presumptuous for some Christians. Who are we to decide when life is created or not? We shouldn’t play God.
Well, if limiting family size is playing God, Christians are fully on board. Average family size continues to shrink, and unless there are a lot of celibate marriages, people are using birth control.
I was married at age 22, and after 22 years of marriage I would have at least eight children without the aid of birth control. Am I sinning against God and my unconceived children?
Some Christians also fear that actively providing birth control will inspire licentious behavior — sex outside of marriage, particularly in young people. But what is licentious behavior in 2022? It used to be that any sex outside of marriage was considered sinful and shameful. This is no longer true for many Christians.
A 2019 study by the Institute for Family Studies showed most Christian young people are sexually active by age 22. And they are getting married later than in the past. This follows secular trends, and the church has more or less accepted the changing sexual mores. It should not escape our notice that most of these unmarried, but sexually active youth and young adults are not having children. They are using birth control and, to be frank, we are happy that they are.
I find it embarrassingly hypocritical that the church will tacitly agree to birth control for their parishioners but cast condemnation on programs that hand out condoms or teach comprehensive sex education instead of abstinence only.
Debate over whether life begins at conception is another reason birth control remains a dirty term. Some forms of birth control, such as pills or vasectomies, prevent conception completely. Others, like IUDs or “morning after” pills, prevent the fertilized egg from developing, which for some people is the same as stopping the child’s fetal heartbeat. Even if you disapprove of the latter kind of birth control, you can still champion the other methods.
As the years pass, I become more and more disillusioned with earthly kingdoms. I do not see God’s kingdom coming to Earth through political power. However, if a Christian is going to become invested in court rulings and laws about abortion, regardless of whether they are for or against, they need to lobby for legislation guaranteeing birth control to every person who wants it.
Abortion isn’t about politics or rights. It isn’t about church tradition or premarital sex. Abortion is about human lives that are precious to God and therefore to us. By preventing unwanted pregnancies, we protect babies and women. We show God and each other how precious we find life to truly be.