Providing Access to Contraceptives — in the Name of Jesus?

The Bible doesn’t offer specific advice about contraceptives. But it does show exactly how Jesus responded to women in need.

The Old Testament records the deaths of Jacob’s wife Rachel (Genesis 35: 16-18) and the wife of Phinehas (1 Samuel 4:19-20) after pregnancy-related complications. That these stories are recorded at all tells us something about their significance within the family and community. Both women were cherished. Although these women had little explicit authority, their roles in raising children and tending to fields and livestock were valued and necessary for socio-economic stability.

Complications during pregnancy and childbirth remain a problem today — they are a leading cause of death and disability among women of reproductive age in developing countries. Every day, approximately 800 women worldwide lose their lives due to pregnancy-related causes.

When mothers die, their children, families, and communities suffer. A mother’s death leaves her child up to 10 times more likely to die prematurely. Women are usually primary guardians of the health, education, nutrition, and social well being of their children. In many cases, they are also the breadwinners, making the impact of maternal mortality in affected families traumatic.

In developing countries, maternal deaths may result in decreased school attendance, especially in young girls, and attention to basic health care. Research suggests that a woman’s income goes toward food, education, medicine, and other family needs. The loss of this support and income affects the family, and in turn the community.

But 1 in 3 deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth could be avoided if the estimated 222 million women who wanted effective means of delaying pregnancies and spacing births had access to them.

Faith communities are vital to the international health sector, often working in remote areas where health-care access islimited. Many have supported the development of life-saving vaccines and technologies that have improved lives, to include providing access to contraceptives to space births.

Yet concerns linger regarding the compatibility of contraception use and religious beliefs. The New Testament doesn’t include specific guidelines regarding contraception or birth spacing, but it does offer concrete insights into how Christ responded to women, which can offer wisdom to those currently wrestling with issues related to birth spacing and faith.

Ample evidence exists in the New Testament suggesting that Christ viewed women as worthy of respect. He ignored impurity laws in one of the most-quoted passages of the Bible — “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” In Mark 5:25-34, he cured a woman who had suffered from menstrual bleeding for at least 12 years, and in Luke 13, he healed a woman in the synagogue at Capernaum on the Sabbath — an outrageous act in the eyes of the men who were there to hear him teach. In each of these situations, the woman in the story pleaded for help and Christ responded to her human need.

Christ opposed prejudice against women, criticizing religious leaders who took advantage of widows by claiming their property (Luke 20:47). Jesus’ teachings underscored the importance of compassion and justice, especially to the most vulnerable within the community, which reflected the Old Testament prophets (Hosea 6:6Micah 6:7-8Isaiah 61:1-3). His ministry focused on holistic well being for all.

Christ not only rejected the exploitation of women, but he also included women in his inner circle (Luke 8:1-3). He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” after the resurrection, and it was to them that the angel said, “Go and tell his disciples.”

On Mother’s Day, we offer sentimental tributes to mothers and women in general. We briefly celebrate the tender virtues of compassion and tireless caring for others — in short, the role mothers play in making the lives around them more joyful. While this is a happy time for many, it is equally difficult for others who have experienced maternity-related losses.

Christian scriptures abound with personal stories that are not too different from those in our twenty-first century world. What is different is the scope of improved health technologies, including child spacing options. Our call within faith communities is to open dialogue about this important, life-saving opportunity. To remain silent is to fail to honor the mothering Christ who desires that all, including women, experience health and life.

When Mother’s Day is over, it is easy to return to a view of women, particularly poor women, as individuals who are morally untrustworthy and don’t have the capacity to think and act for themselves and their families. Copious data proves that access to birth control reduces abortion, a fact often lost in debates over contraception. It is often easier to be punitive than to be compassionate.

In the midst of all our muddling stands the mothering Christ, who nurtured and supported women from all walks of life, and who invites us to care for one another cloaked in compassion, humility, and respect for all.

On this Mother’s Day and those to come, might we in the faith community emulate Christ’s merciful, affirming ministry to women? Enabling birth spacing by offering access to contraception and allowing women and mothers to choose based on their own needs and preferences is consistent with New Testament doctrine, and it affirms our respect for the dignity of all women.

Anne Wilson
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  • TTWSYFAMDGAHJMJ

    IN REPLY TO AW: “Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament. Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.

    “Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment. So the Church, which is “on the side of life,”151 teaches that “it is necessary that each and every marriage act remain ordered per se to the procreation of human life.”

    “This particular doctrine, expounded on numerous occasions by the Magisterium, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the UNITIVE significance and the PROCREATIVE significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.”

    “Chastity means the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being. Sexuality, in which man’s belonging to the bodily and biological world is expressed, becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and lifelong mutual gift of a man and a woman.”

  • TTWSYFAMDGAHJMJ

    IN REPLY TO AW: “The tradition of Christianity has always understood the Sixth Commandment as encompassing the whole of human sexuality.

    Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament. Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.

    “Marriage and human procreation affirms the “inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, makes them capable of the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman.”

    This principle, which is based upon the nature of marriage and the intimate connection of the goods of marriage, has well-known consequences on the level of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. “By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its ordination toward man’s exalted vocation to parenthood.

    Contraceptives are sinful because “every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life.” Since one of the two ends of sexual intercourse is procreation (the other being unity of husband and wife, engaging in sex while deliberately frustrating the procreative act is a violation of the Sixth Commandment.

  • Xiansiempre .

    the opposition to contraceptives does not contradict but rather
    stems from respect for

    women and the dignity of women and men and

    the conjugal act and conception itself.

  • TTWSYFAMDGAHJMJ

    “Safe Sex (the use of Contraceptives) is in itself immoral, namely, it violates the Sixth Commandment. Contraceptive Safety also turns out to be fallacious and ends up increasing promiscuity and free sexual activity through a false idea of safety. Objective and scientifically rigorous studies have shown the high percentage of the failure of these means.

    “It must never be forgotten that the disordered use of sex tends progressively to destroy the person’s capacity to love by making pleasure, instead of sincere self-giving, the end of sexuality and by reducing other persons to objects of one’s own gratification. In this way the meaning of true love between a man and a woman (love always open to life) is weakened as well as the family itself.

    “Moreover, this subsequently leads to disdain for the human life which could be conceived, which, in some situations, is then regarded as an evil that threatens personal pleasure.
    “Together with awareness of the particular strength of the libido—revealed by study of the human psyche—this helps us understand the Catholic teaching regarding the seriousness of any disordered use of sex: ‘According to Christian tradition…and right reason, the moral order of sexuality involves such high values of human life that every direct violation of this order is objectively serious.”, Persona Humana, 10′”.

    Contraceptives are the gateway to Promiscuity, Adultery, Fornication, and Prostitution. They are the keys that open the door to Divorce, and Single Parent Families. Moreover, World Population calls the “Pill” the world’s most deadly carcinogen. The intentional destruction of one’s health is a violation of the Sixth Commandment.

    Because of the moral trauma caused by the debauchery and licentiousness of illicit sex, the victims of the Sexual Revolution have been victimizes by an escapade into the Drug Culture. Moreover, drugs are used to break down the moral defenses and responsibilities of the individual.

  • nwcolorist

    If the end result of a sexual union were a cancerous tumor or some abnormal growth, then contraception would certainly make sense. But as we know, that’s not the case. On the contrary, this union creates what will become the most wondrously complex and unique living organism known to mankind–a human being. Until that concept is brought into the mix, a balanced and meaningful discussion is impossible.

    And using Mother’s Day to promote the contraception argument is, in my mind, manipulative and cynical.