View Cart

Should I Take the Pill?

Truth In Love 403

Should birth control pills be considered an abortifacient?

Feb 27, 2023

Dale Johnson: This week on the podcast, I am delighted to have my friend, Sean Perron. He has an M.Div from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he serves as an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, he’s an ACBC-certified counselor with a specialization in marriage counseling. He’s also the author of three books: Letters to a Romantic, a whole series, one on dating, one on marriage, and one on the first years of marriage. He’s currently pursuing a PhD in Applied Theology and Sean and I are getting to work together on that wonderful project, which I’m thoroughly excited about and I pray that you will hear more about later as well. And then he’s focusing on a theology emphasis with biblical counseling here at Midwestern. So, Sean is married, he’s been married to Jenny for 10 years. They have two children. He is most passionate about the work of pastoral ministry, his family, and we shall not forget hot tea, which is a discussion that we have frequently. Sean, we both enjoy hot tea. He’s blessed by the sincere Christians of First Baptist Church and their passion for the Bible.

Sean, it’s been really fun actually to watch you in pastoral ministry and to see how the Lord is using you there in Jacksonville among the saints there at First Baptist Church and I’m so grateful for you. So grateful for your time at ACBC, we had some overlap, which is really great. And I’m looking forward to our discussion this morning on this really important topic. 

Sean Perron: Super glad to be here and I’m thankful for ACBC and all the work you’re doing Dale. 

Dale Johnson: Well, I think we should clarify, Sean, the title of this podcast, I shouldn’t be asking if I personally should take the pill, but we want to give some perspective on this issue of the pill. I can remember honestly the first time in seminary where I even considered this idea was newly married, Summer and I had been married for just a little short while and we were in my Christian ethics class, and this topic came up about sexuality and then specifically with this issue of the pill as it relates to being an abortifacient, and there was this whole discussion and it has completely new on my heart and mind. And I remember going home and talking to Summer about some of these things. And man, it was just so intriguing and I’m so glad that you’re bringing this up. You’re writing a booklet on this as well. And we are releasing this at ACBC. So, I’m excited to talk about this topic. So let’s just jump right in. What makes the pill unique? 

Sean Perron: Yeah, that is a crucial question. So, as we think about the pill, we need to think first and foremost about contraception in general. So, I think an accurate definition of contraception is against conception. So contraceptives prevent the sperm and the egg from ever uniting if they are true contraceptives. So, the pill gets complicated and is unique because it has features in it that are truly contraceptive, but it also has concerning elements as well, and that makes it more unique than say a typical barrier method that a husband and wife would use or a natural method, such as a calendar method. So it puts it in its own category, and specifically, the birth control pill has three primary mechanisms. So, in short summary, the first mechanism that the pill does is it prevents a woman from ovulating and thereby prevents conception, if she’s not ovulating then she cannot conceive a child. It also increases the mucous which does not permit the sperm and the egg to unite and so that it functions as a barrier method in that way, but the most significant portion for our discussion. The mechanism is it thins the lining of the uterus, which can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall and then thereby preventing fertilized egg to live. It can’t continue to live if it can attach to the uterine wall, and it’s that third function of the pill, the weakening of that wall, which is very concerning because if a fertilized egg cannot implant, it will die. That last portion is an abortifacient, it is not just a contraceptive.

The problem is we actually don’t know how often all three of those mechanisms work or fail, so to answer the dilemma is it helpful to know that every year 400 around 420 thousand babies are born despite their mothers taking the pill regularly and faithfully. So that’s 420,000 approximate children that are born and all three of those mechanisms failed in the process. So the pill was ineffective, even though it’s regularly taken and faithfully used children were still born. And so the question becomes, how often did the first two mechanisms fail that are truly contraceptive and the third mechanism, which is abortive work and thereby kill a child? Randy Alcorn is the first person that I came across who makes this argument and he says it is concerning whether or not one child is aborted by the pill. And we don’t know the answer, it could be 420,000. It could be double that number. It could be many more. The answer is we just don’t know but this puts the pill in a unique and complicated and dangerous category for contraceptives because it’s more than just a contraceptive. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah. So that’s absolutely what makes it unique and it’s concerning on some level with the stats that you just gave because if you’re following the discussion, It demonstrates that all three mechanisms are failing to some degree fairly consistently. And so we at least have to pay attention to that and logic would help us to understand that on some level maybe the first two mechanisms that you mentioned would fail and the third mechanism would not fail, well that brings it sort of in a moral category for us to have to discuss and talk about. Okay, what do we do? I talked about the birth control pill in premarital counseling because I want this young couple to really wrestle with this issue. They have to come to some conclusions and decisions that they’re making on their own about this because this becomes a moral issue. And so, the question naturally, arises is it biblically okay to take the pill? 

Sean Perron: That’s the question. So, we believe as we’re committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Word and that God alone is the giver and taker of life. So, there’s plenty of biblical passages that talk about this. So, 1 Samuel 2:6 talks about this, you have the biblical texts that talk about life beginning at conception. So you have Psalm 51:5. Psalm 139 is a classic beautiful psalm. You have other passages in the New Testament, like Luke 1:41 that talk about the preciousness and the value of life in the womb. And what this means is that the Bible teaches that life begins at the moment of conception and conception is when the sperm and the egg meet. And so, we have to say, okay, if there’s anything that’s snuffing out life, that’s killing life after conception, we have to take this seriously. And so that gets to the question of the pill, and I would say there are a few factors to think through.

So, first, for single women, unmarried women who are not sexually active, this moral issue really is not an issue for them at their current stage of life. So the concerns, I’m raising here are only for women who are married or sexually active and who have a chance of conceiving or not conceiving, or but having the pill cause an abortion. So, if there’s a single woman who’s taking it, perhaps they’re taking it for some sort of medical help, maybe to have a more consistent cycle. If there’s a medical reason for it, and they’re single then this conversation is a different conversation and not this issue is not pressing.

Then you get to there’s a small minority of women who have life-threatening issues medical issues that the pill can help with. Actually, this was the camp that my wife fell into. So my wife went to the doctor and she had a medical issue and the doctor prescribed her the pill. And she was on the pill her whole life since getting this diagnosis. And then we got married, and then we had to come to the grips of what does this mean for us as a married couple? And it turns out her medical condition wasn’t truly life-threatening and she was able to get off the pill but we didn’t know. And so there was a season where she was on the pill and we actually had to use another means of birth control when she was ovulating. So we were under the impression from the doctor that she had to be on the pill for medical reasons. And so, biblical counselors, we value the life of the woman just as much as the life of the baby. And so we sought how can we protect the life of my wife and also protect the life of children. And so, our solution to that was using a barrier method during the time she was ovulating, but now in God’s kindness, we discovered that she doesn’t have to be on the birth control pill or her medical issue. And so we’re very thankful for that. But I say all that to say the answering of the question is complex, so if you’re single, this issue is not relevant. If you have a medical condition, you have to answer it a bit differently than you would without that medical condition. But at the end of the day, we as Christians have to agree that protecting the unborn, protecting the life of children is crucial. And it is very important, and we must take it seriously. And I believe that that rules out the pill as a means of birth control. So, if someone is saying, I’m going to use the pill as a means of birth control, I would say that is a dangerous, unwarranted plea, unbiblical decision that the couple is undertaken. 

Dale Johnson: Yeah, that’s right. Well said, Sean, and I think I want you to pay attention listeners to the way in which Sean is dealing with a very complex, complicated, multi-layered issue. He is starting with a theological truth, right? The fact that we are passionate about life because our God gives life and takes life away. He’s the Creator. That’s how we understand Him, and then we work out the particulars from that theological doctrine, as we deal with the multi-layered dilemmas that we see unfolding specific to an issue that a woman might be undergoing and that sort of thing. And so, we have this truth that our practice flows out of if you will. And so pay attention to the way he’s dealing with that. Now he mentioned that this was complex, it is complex, I’m going to dive down just a little bit in one of those areas of complexity. Let’s say, for example, you have a lady who has been taking the pill for a long time, what do we do in situations like that Sean?

Sean Perron: This issue we have to admit that the church at large has not done a great job at addressing this issue. When I’ve talked to people about this, when people first encounter this, were Christians, godly couples encounter this information, often times they’re shocked to hear this, often times they went to their doctor and their doctor believe that life began at implantation instead of conception. And so their doctor who might have been even been a Christian was able to, in their conscience prescribed the pill knowing all the scientific facts, knowing all the details that I just described. None of that is in dispute. You can read the labels on everything. The science is very clear on this. The debate often happens with the interpretation of whether or not life begins at conception or implantation, and I believe the Scripture is very clear it’s conception. The American Academy of Pediatrics also just came out recently with a very helpful and detailed report about, they also believe it’s related to conception where life begins. And so, you have Christians that were either told one thing by their medical professionals, and that was an interpretive decision and not actual scientific reality, or their medical position may be as a general practitioner, they didn’t know, they weren’t asking the right questions, and this is a shock.

A few things we need to say about that: first and foremost, we never need to be afraid of the truth. The Bible says, the truth shall set us free, and that truth is found ultimately in Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. The Bible says, sanctify them by Your Word. Your word is truth. So Christians are not afraid of the truth, we’re not scared of it, and so the more truth that we can discover that’s a help and that is a benefit and not a scary thing. And so, the question then becomes, what do we do? What does a couple do? Who’s maybe, perhaps been on the birth control pill as their primary means of birth control for a long time and they did not know this a few things. So, one, we truly don’t know what we don’t know. So for that couple, it’s quite possible that they during that sexual intercourse over the course of years there may have been abortions that have taken place that they did not know about. It’s also possible that in God’s kindness and God’s sovereignty every single time, the first mechanism of the pill worked, and it was a contraceptive, and no abortions took place. But the reality is we don’t know and because we don’t know, that requires us to trust in the Lord, to trust in His goodness, to trust in His sovereignty, trust in His kindness to us, and to trust in His forgiveness, the Bible does say that were held accountable for unknown sins that’s all over the Scripture. That’s in Leviticus chapter 4; it’s in Numbers chapter 15, that’s even in Luke chapter 12:47-48. We are held accountable for sins and actions that we didn’t even know we were doing. And that’s not bad news in the ultimate sense. It is bad news in one sense, but it leads us to the good news that Jesus Christ loves and forgives every known and unknown sin for anyone who repents, and who anyone who trusts in him alone. And so I would say, the good news of the Gospel is the answer to this question.

So, the good news is that Jesus lived a perfect life. He died on the cross for sinners, He rose from the dead to provide salvation for everyone who would turn from their sins and trust in Him. And the couple who is jarred by this information, the solution is to run to Christ and to His comfort and His love and His cross and His forgiveness and trust in Him. And in addition to that, now that they know this information, to act differently. So now that they know this information to change and that gets to the heart of the issue, and heart issue is why would a couple knowing this information continue to use the birth control pill as their primary means of birth control? Is it a matter of convenience? Is it a matter of denial? Is it a matter of this is a personal private issue, and we don’t want God intervening in our personal and our marriage bed? And all of those issues fall flat, and all those issues fall short of the biblical standard, and we can glorify God in our marriage bed. We can glorify God with our decisions related to this topic and that’s where bearing fruit in keeping with repentance is crucial. 

Dale Johnson: Amen, well said there as well. A personal and quick testimony after we, Summer and I found out about this information, I wanted to do some research on my own and so we did that while we were in seminary and we were so burdened by this, we wanted to take this information to her OB and even as you mentioned I think you have you know well-intentioned physicians. But as I brought this information to her OB, I mean, she responded not favorably at all and actually quite vehement against what I was saying and did not try to affirm what was clearly laid out in science, and was really sort of appalled that we would even raise this question. It was a really interesting conversation, but we left that place even being more convicted over what the truth of Scripture says versus what we were reading about in science. And so it moved us in the direction and happily, we have six children now, and we’re so grateful for that. And so, the Lord is very kind and very good in these ways.

Now, I want to revisit one of the things that you brought up a little earlier relative to some of the complexity that surrounds this issue of the pill itself, particularly as it relates to medical conditions. So what do we do about married women who have medical conditions that require the pill because we’re talking about multi-layer things here, right? She doesn’t fit the category that you mentioned earlier in singleness and so on. So now she’s married. We’re wanting to encourage she and her spouse to engage and biblically faithful sexual relationship and that sort of thing. So what advice do we give to her?

Sean Perron: A couple of things. So the Bible does care deeply about the life of the mom, the life of the wife, and also the medical illnesses that she’s dealing with. And so that is not to be taken lightly; the Scripture takes that very seriously, and the question then becomes, okay, is there a way to protect both the life of the mom and the wife and the life of her children and of the conceived babies in the womb? And I really believe the answer is yes. So, I don’t think we have to pick between the life of the woman and the life of the child.

For example, if a woman is actually on the pill for medical reasons, their cycle is trackable in a way that is even more so for women who aren’t on the pill oftentimes. It’s predictable, and you can know when you’re ovulating, it’s very easy to do that, what that means is a couple who should regularly have sex and be faithful to that, they can know when the woman is ovulating, and they can plan accordingly to use a biblical contraceptive, a barrier method for that time. So that could be condoms, that could be a diaphragm. That could be, there’s a variety of options that they could use the one thing I will note that’s important, and it’s going a little technical here, but it’s crucial to the issue is sperm can live inside a woman for up to five days. And so what that means is, when you’re calculating this, you need to calculate for margin on your timetable here. So it’s not just like, oh, I’m ovulating today, and now we can use a barrier method. Well, the lead-up to that if you were having sexual intercourse the day before, or even two days or three days up to five days beforehand, the sperm can live. And then what you want to do is you want to prevent the possibility of murdering a child and the possibility of a child dying. And so, I would recommend strongly to plan accordingly margin on each side, given what we know about signs, and given the account that sperm can live up to 5 days in advance. So, I hope that’s just a couple of practical tips, but I hope that’s helpful in knowing that you don’t have to choose between the life of the woman and the life of the child. You can honor God, glorify Him, and protect both. 

Dale Johnson: All this discussion makes me really excited to read the booklet that you and your wife Jenny wrote together that’s a part of our Biblical Solution Series. So thank you brother, for attacking this issue with kindness, with grace, with biblical wisdom as we understand what science is telling us about these matters. And so thank you, brother, for dealing with these in a very nuanced, complex, but biblically faithful Way. So, thanks for joining us today.

Helpful Resources:

The Biblical Solutions Booklet Series

Should I Take The Pill by Sean Perron (Individual or 10-pack)