When some look up ethics and birth control they may hope to find the answer or justification either for or against the use of birth control. At the time of this posting, I am not yet prepared to delve very deeply into that question.
Thoughts for this post developed from a challenge presented to me. My posts on IVF imply that I believe IVF should generally not be recommended. At this point, I have not developed the same general position against birth contol. The Challenge is this,
If I am willing to accept some forms of birth control, do I have any right to challenge the use of IVF? How can we plan small families by preventing conception and, after we have our desired family, say that a couple unable to have any children should not try IVF?
I have not developed a firm position on birth control but I do I have a position on some types of birth control. Any birth control that works through the intent to prevent the continued development of an embryo at any point after fertilization is wrong. This would include the morning after pill, the IUD and the progestin only pill. The IUD and the progestin only pill do not only work by preventing continued development of an embryo but there is evidence that it is one of the ways that they are known to work.
My challenger, I believe, rightly identifies a similarity between IVF and birth control, in that their use both involve taking some control over the number of children one has. To what extent do both the use of IVF and of birth control represent a person’s approach to having children, where having children is seen as a right rather then as a privilege and gift? To what extent do those who promote IVF and birth control consider it a right to have the number of children that they want?
Do we have a right to have children?
If a man and women are sexually active, do they have a right to not have children or to decide on the number of children they want?
Whether something is a right or a responsibility is a moral question. As I discussed in my blog posting titled, My Beliefs,
Right and wrong is defined by the very nature of God, by who God is. God’s will, which is rooted in His being and His nature, is the standard of what is right for man.
With respect to childbirth, there are references to the Lord opening and closing wombs. Genesis chapter 29 says that the Lord pened Leah’s womb. In Genesis 30, He opened Rachel’s womb. In Genesis 20, it says the Lord closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech. In 1Samuel 1, we are told the Lord shut Hannah’s womb. In the New Testament, in Luke 1, Elizabeth was barren and the angel of the Lord visited her and told her she would have a son. The references to the Lord opening and closing wombs in the Bible means the Lord brings about a pregnancy and birth of a child or the Lord prevents a pregnancy. If the Lord opens and closes wombs, how much control do we really have?
Psalm 127:3 says, “behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.” The passage says that children are a reward rather than a right. Psalm 127 also says that a man is blessed who has a quiver full of children. The Hebrew word for “full” is the same word used to refer when a woman’s menstrual cycle is “complete.” One could say, blessed is the man who has his quiver of children complete. Can we say that blessing comes when one has the number of children which make one’s family complete? Who decides what complete is for a person? If the Lord opens and closes the womb, does he not determine the number or completeness for a family? Is it not a blessing when we are able to be content with the number of children that the Lord gives us? Can we not lose the feeling of being blessed if we desire more children and it is not happening, or if we become pregnant when we do not want to be pregnant? Consider the difficulties and stress of IVF attempts. Is this a blessed way to obtain children? Is there blessing if one attempts to destroy a pregnancy that they think they do not want?
Consider the blessing of being able to be content with the number of children that the Lord has given you, or being able to be content with your quiver as full as the Lord fills it.
To what extent does birth control fight against the Lord’s blessing?
To what extent does IVF struggle against the blessing of the Lord?
The challenge remains, “If I am willing to accept some forms of birth control, do I have any right to challenge the use of IVF?”