Is Birth Control Immoral?

This is the deeper explanation for reason number 8 on my list of reasons I do not accept Christianity. I’m not going in order because the order is entirely unimportant. Once again, I know that not every denomination teaches views that disagree with those I present here, but these are the only views I can find reasonable.

First off, I want to distinguish between two types of birth control: one prevents conception, the other actually prevents a living newborn. One example of the first is condoms; I’m not entirely sure, but I believe the Pill also fits in this category. Natural Family Planning also prevents conception, and I think a diaphragm might also but I don’t really know anything about it and I don’t really want to know, at least not right now. On the other hand, abortion is definitely an example of the second. The only other “birth control” I can think of that is not definitely conception control is the morning after pill. Even then, the morning after pill works by forcing menstruation. There is no real way to be sure if a conception took place or not; conception can take place anywhere from half an hour to a week after intercourse. For this post, I will be using the term “conception control” for the first type, as I believe that term is better. I will discuss the morning after pill and abortion separately.

Conception Control

There is a wide variety of conception control. Personally, I do not see a moral problem with any of it. Okay, some of it has a great deal of health risk, but I don’t have a problem with the prevention of conception. As an analogy: I don’t think very many vets would be willing to perform abortions on cats, but all of them (so far as I know) are willing to neuter the animal. I’m not saying people should go that far, but I really don’t see a moral problem with condoms, assuming they are being used in a consensual sexual act. (There are obvious moral problems with adultery and rape, but in such cases, wearing a condom isn’t what makes the act wrong. For the purposes of the argument, imagine a scenario wherein you consider sex moral and then ask yourself why using a condom makes the act immoral.) One reason I hold this opinion is that I think overpopulation is a real concern. Even if you can’t be convinced that overpopulation is a real concern, there are over 100 million orphans, so it does seem selfish to make more children rather than adopt. A third reason is that NFP isn’t always reliable; I’m sure it works if you follow it carefully and have a regular period, but not everyone is that lucky (at least the timeline of 28 days typically requires adjustment). Another reason, that ties in to the third one (I’ll call it reason 3.5), is that parents really shouldn’t have children they can’t afford, and sometimes money alone isn’t the issue. Countless women have gone mad through having too many children too close together.

I know many people from both extremes will disagree, but I personally see a huge difference between preventing life and snuffing it out. If it is wrong to prevent life, isn’t it wrong to abstain from having children as soon as physically possible? If it is right to snuff life out, isn’t it right to kill a child who refuses to obey parental authority (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)? (By the way, by the logic of that particular Bible excerpt, I should have been stoned several times over because I didn’t like to do homework or chores, and especially not promptly.)

Technically, every time a woman menstruates, she has prevented a life, even (perhaps especially) if she is a virgin. (I concentrate on women here because men produce sperm in huge numbers from puberty until death; eggs are a finite resource for each woman, which is why menopause happens.) If that is morally okay, what is truly wrong with conception control? I can understand many of the other arguments against contraception, such as they can cause relationship problems or encourage promiscuity, but those arguments really aren’t against the morality of the contraception itself so much as the circumstances surrounding it. Saying contraception is wrong for those reasons is really not that different from saying all alcohol is morally wrong because it can be abused (alcohol can also cause relationship problems and encourage promiscuity, after all). I cannot see a moral problem with conception control. The main argument used is that it is the same as murder, but there simply isn’t a life to end; that argument is unscientific and illogical.

Morning After Pill

I have two opinions on the morning after pill, or Plan B.

If it is possible for it to destroy a fertilized egg, then there are cases wherein it would be immoral on some level. I’ll get more into that shortly when I explain my views on abortion; essentially the same logic applies, but somewhat less so. Even if the morning after pill can destroy a fertilized egg, if the pill actually is taken the next morning, there is only a small chance the sperm could have reached the egg. With the costs of pregnancy, childbirth, and raising a child, it becomes a problem similar to the ethics question “Would you push a button with a 7% chance of killing someone if it could give you a great amount of money?” It’s not so much that I see Plan B as immoral, but potentially so. However, I want Plan B to be freely available; even though I can’t see myself ever taking it, I want every rape victim to have that option. I see no real problem with a woman choosing to take the morning after pill when she has been raped. I think she should follow her own conscience at that point, and if her conscience or knowledge of herself leads her to believe that she would be emotionally or mentally much worse off if she does not take the pill and ends up pregnant with her rapist’s offspring, I can see no problem with her taking that out and being safe. After all, one of the main arguments against abortion (or the morning after pill) being a “choice” issue is that the choice to perform the procreative act was already made, which is NOT true when the woman was raped. Further, I see no reason a woman should have to prove she was raped before being allowed to purchase Plan B, largely because by the time such proof is complete, the best window could have passed. I am willing to accept that some zygotes may die, for I am aware that they cannot possibly suffer. The woman can, so she should have the ultimate say about Plan B. (More on this later.)

If the morning after pill cannot destroy a fertilized egg, then it is contraception control, and everything I said about that applies to it.

Abortion

It is the opinion of many pro-life individuals that abortion is the same as murder; I know, because I was one of them. Truthfully, they are not wrong about that, for what they mean by “murder” is the willful destruction of an innocent human life. Clearly, abortion fits this description: the fetus cannot be guilty of anything, is scientifically human according to its DNA, and is alive (not dead, not inorganic, growing). However, there is a legal aspect to the definition of “murder”: it is the “unlawful” taking of a life.

I tend to see abortion as immoral by default, probably largely because of my pro-life upbringing. Yet, the more I learn about women who seek the procedure, the more situations I find wherein abortion is at least justifiable and possibly the more moral option. Here are just a few.

First, there is the obvious example of “indirect abortion”. This is any abortion wherein the mother’s life is in danger and can only be saved by an abortion. A common instance is a Fallopian tube pregnancy, where the embryo implanted in the wrong place and could kill the mother simply by growing too large. The mother’s life can be saved with an abortion. Even the Catholic Church, in their official stance on the issue, says that this abortion is morally okay, the reason given being that the operation is to save a life, not to take one away. I could be wrong, but so far as I know, in most cases of indirect abortion, it is impossible to save the life of the child, so it is a choice between one death or two. I would even argue that in such cases, the abortion is self-defense. Obviously, it is still not the ideal (assuming the mother wanted a child), but very often in this world we must take second- or even third-best options. There have been cases where a mother has had to choose between her life and her child’s life, and there is great heroism in those who choose the child, but I see no moral wrong in choosing one’s own life. After all, if self-defense is morally acceptable, this is the logical extension. Notice that I am talking only about those instances where the mother’s biological life is in danger, not her social life.

Second, the perhaps equally obvious case of rape. For the purposes of this argument, I will define rape as “the impregnation of an unwilling female”. In other words, if a woman is having unprotected sex by her own choice, she does not fall into this category. There are certainly situations that are not legally rape that fall into this definition. A woman who is choosing to have sex with a man she does not trust enough not to impregnate her when they cannot have a child almost deserves whatever she gets in my book, but I am aware that this view is too harsh and unmerciful. I have, in the past, believed that abortion after rape is piling evil on evil, and I still do in some cases. However, I have since learned more about more women. I now know that there are some women who would be psychologically tortured if forced to carry the child of rape to full term. This torture would be worse than death. In these instances especially, I believe there should be a legal abortion. Also, there should be counselling to help pregnant victims of rape deal with this situation. It is not an easy one. Personally, I cannot imagine going for an abortion even in a case of rape; however, I don’t believe I would feel raped the entire pregnancy. This is one of the points wherein the argument for the right to choose breaks down: if the woman has already made the choice to open herself for unprotected sex, she has made the choice to open herself for pregnancy. If she has not made the first choice, then the second should still be open.

Related: Legally, direct abortions available only for rape as defined above would be basically impossible to enforce. I honestly cannot think of a good way for this to be legislated without putting rape and miscarriage victims through more trauma than they deserve. Anyone who would force a miscarriage victim to try to prove that she did miscarry and not perform a self-abortion is the very definition of heartless. There have already been cases of women on trial or in jail for miscarriage. Many cases of rape already devolve into he said/she said situations; how can a woman prove that she was raped? Therefore, legally speaking, it is wise to have direct abortion legal for the first two or three months of pregnancy. This gives rape victims the option without putting them through extra torture. It could be argued that Plan B exists and could be used for exactly this situation, and I would accept that, but what about the woman who can’t get it in time, for whatever reason? On the other hand, I have heard of rape victims who have found healing through having that child, so there needs to be a screening process of some kind. If the concern is for the woman, as it should be in cases of rape, we want to minimize their trauma, not increase it either by forcing a traumatic pregnancy or a traumatic end to a pregnancy.

SUPER IMPORTANT and also related: Every woman considering an abortion needs to be informed about those women who have suffered from them. I’ve heard many cases of women regretting an abortion for the rest of their lives, and there should be efforts to prevent that.

Third, there are cases wherein a woman already has a child and simply cannot afford another one. Perhaps she became pregnant when a condom broke; in any case, carrying the fetus even to term would endanger the life of her older child, who needs her to keep her job so he can continue eating. Indeed, this is a large portion of abortions, perhaps up to 75%. For more information of why women seek abortions, see this WebMD article.

Further, it simply isn’t possible for an early-stage fetus to experience suffering. Therefore, there is little, if any, moral reason to deny abortion for the first trimester. For cases of rape or the woman’s life being in danger, abortion should be freely allowed throughout pregnancy. My main argument for the legalization of abortion, at least for the first trimester and some cases for the next two, is that it prevents more suffering than it causes in most cases and is therefore not always immoral.

Legally, perhaps the best argument for abortion is the concept of bodily autonomy. This is extremely powerful because it doesn’t matter whether the fetus is a person; it bypasses that entire section of the argument. There is no law that could force me to donate blood or a kidney to my older brother if he needed it. In fact, it is illegal to take life-saving organs from corpses without their permission. With such laws in place, it is simply absurd to think that we have any right to force a woman to carry a child to term. Such an idea grants more rights to the fetus than to adults, and fewer rights to the woman than to a corpse, for pregnancy requires the use of a woman’s organs. For a great analogy and explanation, see this post.

The only argument against this is the idea that a woman made a choice to get pregnant and therefore “signed away” her bodily autonomy. The problem with this is that the majority of abortions are in cases wherein the woman made no such choice: either conception control failed, or she was raped. Besides, if we have the right to change our minds about organ donation, a woman should have the right to change her mind about whether to donate her body for nine months.


5 thoughts on “Is Birth Control Immoral?

  1. I think at the end you meant “argument for abortion” but I get what you meant.

    I can’t find much to really disagree about in this post, but like I said earlier, I tend to avoid a moral argument because in a lot of ways my opinion on this is irrelevant, and not because I’m a guy. The tenth amendment and the expected right to privacy sort of nullify any moral interest I think anyone but the patient has.

    The bit at the end really covers the important parts in the arguments on abortion. As far as contraception, I can’t really say I see any form of contraception inherently immoral, even Plan B. Essentially you’re flushing out a kind of cell that has the potential to develop into a fetus. You’re not killing a human or a person, just removing a cell. I mean, it would be like saying that male masturbation is inherently immoral because of the wasted sperm. It has the potential to be a fetus and person under certain conditions, but we certainly wouldn’t grant them personhood or call a sperm a human.

    I think the only moral issue for contraception is whether or not people have easy access to it.

    1. Gah. Typo fixed now, thanks!

      The thing is, the only case where I would see Plan B as even possibly immoral is the case where it does remove a zygote. According to some sources, this is impossible and the pill only works if the egg has not been fertilized. I can’t see it as immoral, ever, in that case. Further, although I maintain that there could be cases wherein Plan B might be immoral if it does remove a zygote, I maintain that mainly for consistency’s sake; my position on the morality of abortion only makes sense if I draw the line at conception, and there’s no other clear place to draw that line. I find it difficult to find it very wrong to destroy a zygote, just as I find it difficult to find it very wrong to destroy an ant; it could certainly be argued that killing an ant causes more suffering than killing a zygote, as the zygote is incapable of feeling any pain or experiencing any suffering. That’s essentially why I want Plan B to be available freely, without any sort of legal restraint or anything.

      I completely forgot to mention that lack of access to contraception leads to abortion! I think one of the links touches on it, though. I’d absolutely agree, however, that morally speaking, that is the only issue for conception control.

  2. According to the Catholic Church the pill is an aborcificant(sp?) and does not prevent pregnancy but aborts a person. This is because the egg might already be implanted and be unable to properly implant because of the pill. Therefore it would fall into the opposite group you assigned.

    Do you believe consenting to having sex is the same as consenting to having a child? Condoms break, Plan B is a solution for that situation. Also humans being humans occasionally get carried away. Does that mean that a woman should have to carry and possibly care for a child? You seem to think so early in the post but your last paragraph makes me think that you do not.

    You imply that there are a large number of women getting abortions after choosing to have unprotected sex. This seems illogical. Abortion is hardly a comfortable procedure, not to mention that in comparison to condoms, the pill, and even plan b, abortion is very costly. If there are any women using abortion as their main birth control method it is likely extremely low for the preceding reasons.

    I think there needs to be a safety net of counselors in any abortion clinic. First to make sure no one is coercing a woman into getting an abortion she does not want and secondly to make sure she not making the choice under duress. However unlike pregnancy when a woman does get an abortion she is making a direct choice. If a woman chooses to get an abortion and later regrets it most of the fault is hers. Anti abortion information is literally everywhere in this country. It seems to me a lot of the women that regret were talked into getting an abortion by their parents or boyfriend. This, while anecdotal, adds to the necessity of the counselors.

    1. I think there probably are some women who get abortions after choosing to have unprotected sex, and that the pro-life movement in which I was raised makes that seem like a higher percentage than it is. I linked above to a list of the reasons women get abortions, and just ending an unwanted pregnancy is on that list. I don’t actually think that is a high number of women, though. I do think the “I could carry this child to term but I just don’t wanna” is the worst reason to get an abortion and the one wherein abortion is clearly the less moral choice; however, in order to make abortion legal in situations where it is the lesser of two evils, we need to make it legal in this one, too.

      I do think consenting to having unprotected sex, when both parties are aware how babies are made, especially if there is also awareness of where the woman is in her cycle and it is a time when she is at high risk for pregnancy, is consenting to getting pregnant. That’s exactly how people who want to get pregnant go about it. I don’t think there are actually many people who engage in that behavior pattern unless they do want to be pregnant, or at least are open to the idea.

      However, if a person does engage in the behavior pattern of doing exactly what people do when they want to become pregnant, and gets pregnant, I think it is usually immoral of them to then have an abortion. (I say “usually” because I know how expensive it is even to carry a child to term, and there may be economic factors that make abortion the more moral option.) This is an entirely different argument than whether abortion should be legal, and I think it needs to be legal even in this case for the first trimester at least. This is largely so that women who do need abortion don’t need to prove a rape first or some such nonsense.

      I also think that having consensual unprotected sex when you could get pregnant but know you can’t or won’t care for a baby is immoral. Like I said, though, I don’t actually think very many people do that, especially with full knowledge of what they are doing and the possible consequences.

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